Why MotoGP isn't following F1's engine freeze path

Where Formula 1 has drawn a line in the sand on cost control by agreeing to halt engine development, MotoGP has no intention of doing likewise, despite strong economic incentives.

Why MotoGP isn't following F1's engine freeze path

In a precarious economic climate where the need to control escalating costs is paramount, Formula 1's key stakeholders approved a power unit development freeze from 2022 back in February. But it's a move that the MotoGP factories are not even contemplating, and for a variety of reasons.

Pressure from F1's promoters and rule makers - Liberty Media and the FIA – to limit costs for teams intensified with an ultimatum given by Red Bull, following the news that Honda (engine supplier of its works team and AlphaTauri) would be withdrawing at the end of the 2021 season. Red Bull publicly floated the idea that it could take on the Japanese engines if the rest of the grid agreed to the freeze.

The details for the new proposal duly fell into place at the start of the season, as the FIA approved new regulations for engines between 2022 and 2024 - when the next review is set to take place - with Red Bull promptly announcing the creation of a new Powertrain division that has aggressively sought to poach talent from Mercedes.

In MotoGP, a decision as big as an engine freeze would have to be agreed to by the Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association (MSMA) and then ratified by the Grand Prix commission, which incorporates representatives from the promotor (Dorna) and the governing body, FIM.

For the time being, and despite the difficulties being faced by the manufacturers due to the impact of COVID-19, there isn’t enough traction to even raise the debate. Indeed, during a recent Grand Prix Commission meeting it was made official - and without condition - that the current engine freeze due to conclude at the end of this year will not be renewed.

“That proposal was not on the MSMA table at any point,” one of the meeting’s regular attendees, who preferred to remain anonymous, revealed to Autosport. “In any case, it is widely known that some manufacturers would never accept it, and to push ahead with something like that would require unanimity amongst the board.”

MotoGP pack at the start of the 2021 Portuguese GP

MotoGP pack at the start of the 2021 Portuguese GP

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

It is clear that the factories least disposed to accept any hypothetical engine freeze would be the ones with most power.

Suzuki is a gigantic corporation, even though the resources it puts into the MotoGP project is incomparable to Honda, for example. Its former team manager Davide Brivio, who joined the Alpine F1 team as its new racing director ahead of the 2021 season, has been able to identify some of the main differences in the dynamics between the two championships.

“In F1, the key word at the moment is sustainability,” Brivio tells Autosport. “There are decisions that have been taken for the common good and accepted by everybody. The teams here earn money directly from the promotor, which is a major point that you have to take into account.

“You only have to look at the amount of restrictions that have been in applied to F1 in recent years, which were difficult for the bigger teams to accept. What’s happening is that they realised that without a drastic deceleration in costs, it would be impossible for the smaller teams to survive.”

Let’s imagine for a moment that the six factories currently involved in MotoGP were to begin a dialogue about the possibility of halting engine development. It is not something that could be brought in before 2023, given that the likes of Suzuki and Ducati have already rolled out the base of the new engines they plan to run next season.

“That would not be fair because it would go against the spirit of the rule itself, given that the investment made in these components would be wasted,” said our source in the MSMA.

One way of making it work in the future, though, would be to allow engine development only every two or three years, a small change that could have a large impact on budgets. What is clear is that if an agreement was ever reached, the technical backing would be there to support the change.

“Of course, it would be possible if the mandate came from the MSMA,” says MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge. “From our side there wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, it would be easy, because we have done it before.”

Joan Mir, Team Suzuki MotoGP

Joan Mir, Team Suzuki MotoGP

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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