Last week, Renault boss, Cyril Abiteboul, admitted that the new rules this season which limit drivers to just three power units, are already causing the French manufacturer to consider its options.
A deliberate grid penalty for changing an engine at an event where a team expects to struggle would pay off not only in terms of having a fresh unit for the next event, it would also allow engine manufacturers to benefit from upgrades to their engines, a move that would be difficult if intending to use just three engines all season.
“We knew this regulation was coming and we know what we had to do,” said Abiteboul, according to ESPN, “we are still a bit open-minded about the best way we want to cover the season.
“In particular, we are not assuming that we want to downgrade the performance potential of the engine because of reliability because of mileage,” he added.
“We are also looking carefully at the evolution of the sporting regulations in terms of grid penalties,” he admitted. “You may know that this has become a bit more flexible, a bit less painful, so we will factor that into the way we are building the plan for this year in terms of engine introduction and possible engine penalties if we have to or if we think that this is tactically in our advantage to do so. But it’s too early days to talk about that.
“In Formula One you need to optimise. You need to optimise potential. And if it’s better for everyone to use four power units, four ICEs rather than three, we may take that decision, but it’s really too early to talk about that.”
Toro Rosso, whose new engine partner (Honda) has racked up countless grid penalties over the last couple of years, but has shown remarkable reliability in pre-season testing, is considering a similar strategy.
“There will come the period where we have to find out if is it better to start with a new power unit from the back instead of using an engine that will have 3000-4000 kilometres on it, and you start losing power after one or two hundred kilometres,” said Franz Tost, according to Motosport.com.
“We will see,” he added. “But I can tell you now that we will have this discussion. I don’t know when, but we will have it.”
A late move to reverse the rule and leave teams with the same allocation (four) as 2017 was blocked by Ferrari.
“Last year manufacturers tried with four engines and less races, and this year we have more races and less engines,” said Tost. “I can only say they are totally crazy with this regulation.
“But Ferrari was against it,” he continued, “because others wanted to go with four. They think they have an advantage with three. And it is within the regulations so we have to live with it. We have to accept it and how many power units at the end we will need I don’t know.”