In an effort to reduce costs and prevent the sport from descending into the motorsports equivalent of a nuclear arms race, the powers-at-be in Formula 1 introduced a “token” system to restrict engine development throughout a season. Each change to an engine or power unit would cost a given number of tokens. Once these were spent, changes were prohibited. It was a fine enough plan, in theory. In practice?
Mercedes-Benz got their engine absolutely right the first time out, and there weren’t enough tokens available to the other Formula 1 engine manufacturers to enable them to catch up. As a result, the last two seasons’ worth of Championships have been cake walks for the works Mercedes-Benz / AMG hybrids, there has been chaos in the midfield, a Swiss watch company decided it would make a credible engine-builder (again), and there have been calls to bring lower-cost, ethanol-fueled IndyCar engines into F1.
Formula 1 Says Bye-bye to Engine Tokens
Reports are now circulating that indicate the token system- which would have seen manufacturers issued 32 tokens this year, 25 the next, 20 in 2018, and so on- will be scrapped after the 2016 season.
This year the manufacturers still have 32 tokens to spend in 2016. After that, though, it’ll be a free-for all- and it is believed that, since all four F1 engine manufacturers (Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Renault/Infiniti/TAG, and Honda) have effective works teams, their increased spending will be justified by trying to make “their own teams” competitive. The updates will then trickle-down to their customers’ squads either immediately (as Renault has promised) or as time goes on (as Ferrari has promised).
“The token system is being removed,” Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul said today. “One of the reasons we have all agreed to do this is that we all need the performance of the engine to converge … an F1 that is dictated by the performance of the engine is not good for anyone.
Of course, you could argue that Renault’s previous championships have come from having superior aero packages (in the 2010-2013 Red Bull era of dominance), superior driving talent (in the Schumacher and Alonso eras), or superior overall budgets (in the days of the dominant early-90’s Williams cars), so- obviously!- they’d say that. I mean, that’s what I’d argue. What would you say to that?
Head down to the comments section at the bottom of the page and let us know what you think of F1’s future engine regulations and what they might mean for the sport. Enjoy!