Formula 1 stakeholders to discuss 4WD cars

Formula 1 may look to four-wheel-drive cars from 2021

The introduction of four-wheel-drive cars is set to be discussed by Formula 1 management and teams next week.

The FIA and F1’s commercial rights holders have invited teams to meet for dialogue about future technical regulations in Paris on Tuesday 31 October.

A new engine formula is due in 2021.

Simplification of current turbo V6 specifications, including more standard parts such as the MGU-K, are generally preferred as a means of reducing costs and bringing the field closer together.

However, some teams, such as Mercedes, are in favour of keeping the complicated MGU-H at the heart of an F1 engine.

One alternative to the MGU-H, which recycles energy from turbo heat, is to introduce a front-axle kinetic energy recovery system (KERS).

The technology is similar to Porsche’s in the World Endurance Championship, where energy recovered under braking at the front axle is stored in batteries for deployment later, making the car four-wheel drive.

A front-axle KERS would help improve mechanical grip in corners and allow cars to follow each other more closely, but the technology is expensive and would add further weight to already very heavy F1 cars.

“How do we compensate for 60% of electric energy that is being lost?” said Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff.

“There are various possibilities and front motors is one.

“It’s not that we are absolutely stuck on implementing front motors but we have to discuss all possible technologies that can compensate for the lack of power.”

There is also the risk one manufacturer could deliver a system much better than its rivals’.

“It’s the same trap F1 got itself into when it selected this engine,” said Gene Haas.

“It seemed like a simple idea but when you started doing the engineering it became very, very complex.

“We have to be very careful before we say ‘let’s just throw a four-wheel drive car out there’, because it could be another one of those ones where one team will probably hit a home-run and the rest of us will be struggling with trying to catch up with that.”

A high-tech, expensive engine that requires new designs may please current manufacturers, but it will not help smaller teams or encourage new independent suppliers.

Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said, “Liberty will have to take a position and to accept maybe to make some people unhappy.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to make fans, independent engine manufacturers like Cosworth, teams that do not have a technology message like Red Bull, happy, but at the same time keep the manufacturers, the petroleum companies and maybe bring new manufacturers.”

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has suggested he would not accept a simple engine.

“The knowledge and technology of the Ferrari tradition cannot be undone by the objective to reduce costs,” he said.

“I am the first to acknowledge that we are spending too much, but we cannot take action by removing what is the DNA of Ferrari and Formula 1.”

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