C Championship


Four-wheel drive cars part of Formula 1’s discussion for 2021 onwards

, Editor-in-chief

A move to four-wheel drive is one of the topics to be discussed by teams and the FIA over the future engine rules during a meeting next week.

Teams have been invited to a meeting in Paris on October 31 by the FIA and F1’s commercial right holders to outline and discuss the path for the new engine and car rules for 2021 onwards.

FIA is in favour of moving to a more simplified version of the current turbo hybrid V6 engines with more standard parts – including the MGU-K – to help bring costs down and make things more competitive.

However, there is disagreement between the teams about whether the MGU-H – a part that recycles energy from turbo heat – should remain part of the engine due to its complexity.

Mercedes are in favour of keeping it, but other teams are not. "How do we compensate for 60% of electric energy that is being lost?" said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

One alternative considered to replace the electric energy lost is through using a front-axle kinetic energy recovery system (KERS). This is like the technology employed by Porshe in the World Endurance Championship. Front axle recovers energy under braking which is stored in batteries for deployment later, effectively turning the car into a four-wheel drive.

Although front-axle KERS will allow cars to follow each other more closely due to the greater mechanical grip in corners, the technology is very expensive and would add further weight to the cars.

"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."

Although the top teams including Mercedes, Ferrari, and few others might be pleased by the new engine technology, smaller teams will have difficulty keeping up and new suppliers will be reluctant to enter the business, a similar problem currently faced by the FIA.

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

"It's going to be difficult to make fans, and have independent engine manufacturers like Cosworth - teams that do not have a technology message like Red Bull. But at the same time keep the manufacturers, the petroleum companies and maybe bring new manufacturers."

While Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne is not satisfied with the idea of Formula moving to simpler engines.

"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."