Red Bull Racing chief technical officer Adrian Newey says the proposed regulation changes intended to shake up Formula 1 in 2017 won't go far enough to challenge the current manufacturer-dominated hierarchy.
The designer has been a vocal opponent of the current 'hybrid' era, insisting the sport has become too dominated by the engine formula, which has allowed Mercedes and Ferrari to establish a sizeable advantage over Renault – which supplies Red Bull – and newcomers Honda.
Indeed, with the Mercedes works team having all-but-dominated F1 since the introduction of the V6 Hybrid power units in 2014, the FIA will instigate a series of earlier-than-planned regulation changes from the 2017 season, designed to make the cars look more aggressive and race upwards of five seconds a lap faster.
However, while some teams are hoping the amendments will go some way to opening up the competition, Newey is more sceptical about it, saying there still isn't enough flexibility to allow for alternative designs.
“I have always enjoyed rule changes because it gives fresh opportunities,” he told United Arab Emirates publication The National
. “The regulations have become increasingly restrictive. If you go back to, let's say the 1970s and the 1980s, you saw this huge variety of shapes of cars because the regulations were relatively free.
“Now, if you painted all the cars white in the pit lane, you have to be quite knowledgeable to know which car is from which team.
“Regulation changes give that opportunity to do something different. However, with the regulation changes that are being talked about for 2017, they are actually not that different to what we have now. Slightly wider tyres. Slightly revised aerodynamics regulations. No really fundamental differences.”
Newey is, however, intrigued by the proposal from the FIA to introduce a standardised independent customer, but suggests allowing customer teams full access to software and fuel would improve competition too.
“It's not just the physical hardware [supplying an engine], it's also the petrol and the software,” he continued. “So the first thing you can do is to change the regulations so that customer teams have the same software and the same fuel, if they wish to, as the works team.
“The second problem – how do you then maybe get new people in, Audi perhaps, is a more complicated one. The cost now to compete for the manufacturers in F1 now is huge, well over €200 million (Dh801m) a year. Probably nearer €300m. So it's huge.
“An alternative which is being proposed by the FIA is that there should be a different engine, an FIA engine, that the small teams can use, an engine that will be competitive. I think that will be a very good solution. But the manufacturers don't want it, so it's a battle.”
As it stands, the proposal for a customer engine is on 'hold' while Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda co-operate to find an alternative solution intended to bring costs down for customer outfits. The teams have until 15th January to present the proposal.