Standard engine set for go-ahead

Radical plans for a standard engine in Formula One look almost certain to be rubber-stamped by the FIA later this week, has learned, with five teams including Renault believed to have expressed an interest in signing up to the deal

FIA president Max Mosley has given teams until Thursday afternoon to sign up to the option of having a standard-specification Cosworth engine from 2010.

In a letter to the teams last week, he said the deal would go ahead as long as a minimum of four outfits were interested in a three-year deal - which will cost them an upfront fee of £1.68 million and an annual charge of £5.49 million.

Although there has been no official confirmation from the FIA about the level of interest in the deal, with Mosley simply claiming last Friday that he had been contacted by three teams, investigations by have revealed that half the grid are now seriously looking into it. understands that as well as wholly independent teams Williams and Force India having shown an interest, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso have told the FIA that they are taking the option into consideration.

But the biggest surprise is that French car manufacturer Renault is believed to have told the FIA that it too is interested in the supply of standard engines.

Such a move would mark a significant departure for the car maker, who have supplied engines from their Viry-Chatillon base in France since they returned to F1 in 2001.

However, with Renault having long faced financial pressures from their parent company to justify their involvement in F1, the prospect of a dramatic reduction in engine budget from 2010 may be enough to quell any unease that could lead to the French car manufacturer following Honda out of the sport.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore was unavailable for comment about Renault's interest in standard engines, but did say at the season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix that power units were one area where big cost savings could be made.

"I think we are in a very difficult position economically, what is going on around the globe and it's a panic at the moment," he said. "Formula One is not immune from this panic. I believe our chairman and everybody is very sensitive as to what happens in Formula One as well.

"Regarding the question of the engines, sure we need to cut the costs but for me, all this discussion about Formula One engines, already today, with frozen engines, theoretically there is no development. I don't understand all the time how it's surprising when people are talking about engine development etc.

"Already today we have no performance (gains) from the engine. If everybody follows the rules, the engine is frozen and nobody is allowed to touch the engine. Whatever proposal we put together, we need to take into consideration this as well."

The FIA has made it clear that it will not force manufacturers to run a standard engine from 2010, but Mosley said in last week's letter than any car maker's own power unit will have its performance pegged to that of the standard engine.

With no performance differentiation between the different types of engines, Briatore may have felt that there was little point in Renault continuing to fund a full-scale engine programme for tens of millions of pounds, when there is a fully-competitive option for less than £6 million.

Mosley is due to meet with FOTA representatives in Monaco on Wednesday to discuss the latest raft of cost-cutting ideas for implementation next year and 2010.

He has already hinted that measures being proposed by the teams do not go far enough and, with an added urgency to bring budgets down in the wake of Honda's withdrawal, there could be some fraught discussions about what needs to be done.

After Thursday's deadline for standard engines, the FIA World Motor Sport Council will meet on Friday, with Formula One cost cuts believed to be the main item on the agenda.

It is expected that the meeting will rubber stamp any rules proposals coming out of the FOTA meeting, as well as the standard engine plans.

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