It’s been configured in this way to encourage new manufacturers to enter, not to be scared off by the prospect of the technological head start established by the existing manufacturers. Those existing manufacturers have been instrumental in structuring it in this way.
But the concern now is that the unforeseen way VW is set to enter makes it possible in theory for all sorts of shenanigans to exploit these allowances as competitive loopholes. There are so many questions so far unanswered. Will the Red Bull Powertrains project feature IP from the existing Honda-based PU? How much Porsche will be in any Red Bull Powertrains engine? Could the Audi and Porsche engines actually end up being essentially the same? Would Porsche, Audi and Red Bull all be eligible as new manufacturers? Could it be possible in theory for a single technical programme to actually benefit from three lots of allowances and thereby get a huge advantage in dyno hours and research costs?
None of this is to suggest that this will happen, but as things stand they are the questions which the new set of circumstances pose.
Unsurprisingly, existing manufacturers are looking at the situation with some concern. Toto Wolff: “It’s not clear yet who actually enters as a power unit supplier and who declares themselves as newcomers. It could well be that there are three companies from the same group that are entering as newcomers. The picture is still very unclear and whether $15m CapEx [capital expenditure] is enough or not enough, there are much bigger topics that we need to agree on – which we haven’t.”
Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto has much the same concerns. “We need to consider what we define what is a newcomer and what are the benefits of a newcomer? All that needs to be clarified and defined. There is also the IP transfer. IP transfer should not be possible; that was agreed. How we translate that into a wording needs to be decided.” IP transfer between Audi and Porsche. IP transfer between existing Red Bull Powertrains and Porsche. How can it possibly be sealed and clear-cut?
Christian Horner seems to be getting on with the campaigning already and in Melbourne said, “When you look at our competitors, that in some cases have obviously had 70 years of investment on the engine side, to think that you can have a facility fully operational and equipped within the next eight months, is unrealistic.”
This is going to run and run.