FIA president Jean Todt says there is no simple alternative to F1’s unpopular grid penalties for power unit changes.
The rule giving drivers grid penalties for using too many power unit components was originally introduced to reduce costs, Todt pointed out.
“[In the past] you could change one engine from Friday, you could change the engine for the Saturday, then you have a qualifying engine, and you could do that 20 times,” said Todt at a media briefing in Abu Dhabi.
“It was decided for cost reasons to limit the number of engines. It was also to make access to engine supply to private teams at a lower cost.”
“So, what happens if you change the engine? Something has to happen. I would say it has been a consensus by everybody that it should be through a grid penalty, so that’s what it is.”
Changing the current arrangement would create new problems, Todt said.
“I don’t feel that it’s easy to find the real solution. If you don’t do anything, then what happens? It will be more expensive to buy the engines.”
“Even for the FIA to decide that you don’t have any limited amount of engines, it doesn’t make any problem, but it will make a problem for the competitors, so you have to translate that with grid penalties.”
Todt said the need to drive down costs was also behind the reduction from four power units per season to three this year.
“The idea [is] that it will be cheaper for the private teams, because the private teams don’t pay four engines, they pay three engines.”
“That was a consideration, because if you remember,  will be the drop – since the implementation of the agreement, each year is a drop on the cost of the engine. To achieve that, the engine suppliers said ‘we are prepared to reduce the cost of the engine to the teams, but we need to decrease the number of engines we will supply to them, from four to three’.”
“We have the tendency to forget the origin of a decision. It’s what I was mentioning about [grid] penalties. Of course, we would prefer not to have any penalties, but there is a cost if you don’t have anymore penalties. The reason why we went on three engines was to allow to bill cheaper the engine to the private team, which for me was absolutely essential.”
Last week a proposal to raise the limit to four power units in 2019 was not agreed by teams. Fining manufacturers for using extra engines instead of issuing grid penalties would lead to accusations the FIA was taxing competitors, said Todt.
“It will be encouraging the wealthy teams,” he said. “Does Mercedes care to get [a fine of] 200,000 or 500,000?”
“Then what will people say? [That] the FIA wants to try to find any way to find more money.”
Go ad-free for just £1 per month
2018 F1 season
- Honda’s jet division helped F1 engineers solve power unit problem
- McLaren Racing losses rise after Honda split
- Ricciardo: Baku “s***show” was Red Bull’s fault
- “Drive to Survive Episode 1: All to Play For” reviewed
- F1’s television and social media audiences rose last year