John Barnard, legendary designer for McLaren and Ferrari, says the complex power unit regulations are causing Formula 1’s current difficulties while tighter rules and costs mooted for 2021 would risk suffocating innovation.

Barnard, who left F1 in 2001, keeps close eye on the climate within the sport and feels only manufacturer-backed teams have the opportunity to fight at the front given the costs and impact the current power unit rules produce on the F1 pecking order.

Mercedes has dominated the V6 Hybrid era, winning four consecutive F1 world drivers’ and constructors’ titles, with its nearest rivals being Ferrari while customer teams have struggled to consistently compete.

“I think the problem with Formula 1 is it is technically driven over the cliff by the power units, they are not just engines anymore, the power units are so complex,” Barnard, whose biography The Perfect Car was published last month, told “Unless you are a manufacturer with the kind of development resources at your fingertips you are not going to get there.

“That’s why I can see why Red Bull has decided to go with Honda. For someone like Red Bull it is the best they are going to get in terms of manufacturer-supplied unit. That makes sense to me but it is a risk.

“The more you try to control costs and tighten regulations up the more room you take away from innovation. In a way, they are shooting their foot off.”

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Key meetings between F1 owners Liberty Media and teams have been held this week to nail down the future regulations of the sport set to be introduced for 2021.

While there’s been a delay on finalising the 2021 rules, with the engine regulations initially planned to be confirmed at the end of May, the new rules are set to layout a standardisations of a number of engine components while a team budget cap of $150million has also been tabled.

Barnard, who produced the sport’s first carbon-fibre chassis with McLaren and first semi-automatic paddle shift gearbox with Ferrari, wants F1 to keep open its technical scope to allow teams to find innovations which is hoped to provide closer racing.

“What a lot of fans liked was the technical innovations, looking at the cars that were different,” he said. “Now if you all painted them white you probably couldn’t tell one from another.”

Barnard is credited with leading the technical teams which won world titles with Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost while famously set up a Ferrari technical department in Surrey after insisting he would not move to the Scuderia’s headquarters in Maranello.

After leaving F1, Barnard has turned his attention to furniture design while the idea for the biography came from writer Nick Skeens following a meeting through the design world.

“It started out as a ghost-written autobiography but that was just one person’s viewpoint and I wanted to make it more accurate,” he said. “Nick went out to talk to people who worked with me, for me, who know me, and build the picture up to give more honest and accuracy – my nature is I want accuracy and I like the detail.

“Some people like me, some people don’t, I’ve got all sorts of reputations one way or another but let’s get it down and see.”

The Perfect Car – The Biography of John Barnard, is out now from Evro Publishing, RRP £40, at