McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says the FIA engine penalty system won’t be dramatically overhauled for 2018 but could be altered to include financial hits to make up for the heavy grid drops.

Since the introduction of the engine parts cap in the V6 hybrid era teams have struggled to work within the maximum number of units permitted per season and incurred hefty grid penalties as a result.

For the Japanese Grand Prix alone, McLaren-Honda’s engine change for a hydraulics leak on Fernando Alonso’s car gave him a 35-place drop – despite there only being 20 cars on the grid – while over the course of 2017 his grid penalty total has already ballooned to 140.

Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz Jr were also slapped with respective 20-place grid drops at Suzuka for additional engine component switches. In conjunction with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen taking grid drops for gearbox changes, a quarter of the entire grid was penalised while only the top four remained in their same starting positions from qualifying.

The issue has come under heavy criticism by F1 fans and teams with change being encouraged but McLaren’s Boullier doesn’t believe drastic rule switches will be introduced for 2018 – when the amount of engine units will be dropped again to three for the entire season.

“I don’t think the penalty system will be changed,” Boullier said. “It’s more the number and the way it is calculated which is a little bit frustrating or difficult to understand for everybody.

“There is some consideration now to think of something different which could be easier to understand.

“It could be financial, it could be something else, or a mix between sporting and financial. Debating now is too early, the discussion hasn’t even started yet, but it has been raised as a topic.”


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Because the way the rules work is to penalise heavily the weakest teams, hitting them financially worsens the situation. It can only really work with a budget cap. If this is set at, say a notional 150mill for all teams and each motor is notionally priced at 2mill, a turbo 500k etc. Put a new engine in at every race would cost 20 x 2mill =40mill which would put a big dent in a team using the maximum spending. They may be able to afford it financially but won't be able to afford the loss in the notional budget cap. The effect on lower budget teams is far less.

While this may be better, it still leaves the question of what do you do to a team that busts the notional budget? No new parts allowed is about the only weapon.

Budget caps are a non-starter.  Teams could simply spin different sections of their factories into independent entities, selling their product to the F1 team for nominal costs, while still spending what they could afford on R&D.  Mercedes F1, as an example, would purchase engines from AMG and Chassis' from Mercedes for $1 per unit.

I think you miss my point. The FIA could set a notional figure and deduct notional amounts for extra engines. Everyone gets the same figures, so no matter how you shift the real money around, the same penalty applies. It looks a bit fairer.

The real problem was that the FIA didn't set a price cap at outset and the problem compounded.

Ok, I understand; I thought you  were using 'notional' in place of 'hypothetical'. Sounds like it will have pretty much the same effect as the current maximum number of parts allowed.  As you say, we're still left with the final question, 'what is the punishment for teams who exceed the maximum?'.