Bernie Ecclestone's controversial suggestion that Formula One should adopt a 'spec-engine' as a means of combating spiralling development costs in an economic downturn has met with a mixed response from team bosses keen to retain a sense of individuality.
Hand-in-hand with FIA president Max Mosley's call for the ten teams to come up with ways of cutting spending in order to ensure that Formula One survives the 'credit crunch', Ecclestone has suggested that teams be given a set of tightly-controlled regulations in which to design their engines, which would be required to last for at least half a season.
The F1 supremo claims that such a move would reduce spending on engines by up to 90 per cent within two years, but the switch of philosophy would ride roughshod over the current 'engine freeze', which is due to continue for another three years. According to Britain's Times
newspaper, Ecclestone's proposals would see one standard engine specification, meaning that each manufacturer would be allowed to build the powerplant, but it would be the same as any other in the pit-lane, with only badging to differentiate the units. Teams without manufacturer support would be able to get their hands on the same engine 'through an independent contractor'.
“The thing I am most excited about is pushing and pushing and pushing the homologated engine idea,” Ecclestone said on the eve of the Japanese GP weekend, “The new engine will be equalised and there will only be two engine changes a year, so costs are going to dramatically come down - and I mean dramatically.”
Asked whether they were in favour of adopting such a radical proposal, even if it meant containing the runaway cost of competing in the top flight, however, three team bosses appeared less than convinced that it was right for Formula One.
"I don't think there has been any discussion between the FIA and teams of a spec engine," Toyota's John Howett told journalists at Fuji, "There's a lot of speculation and there's been, I think, some allusions in the press releases towards that.
"I think a lot of the manufacturers are concerned about having a spec engine, because one of the core interests is at least having some differentiation in the power unit. And, also, you probably have to look at the [fact that the] current cost of the engine could be replaced by the cost of KERS. I think we need to have a serious discussion - without politics - between the professionals to try to find a compromise which supports the small teams and actually gives the right result for the manufacturers. I think that can be achieved."
With Mosley also proposing that the cost of drive-train development be slashed by the introduction of a common package for all teams, Howett admitted that 'posturing' had long been a part of the negotiation process in Formula One.
"I could say, controversially, that the negotiating stance, historically, in Formula One has been to put an extreme proposal on the table, and then [hope] that encourages the teams to move in a direction," he pointed out, "So we may just be, at the moment, purely in a negotiating tactic, I don't know.