In 2016, Formula 1’s engine manufacturers and the FIA agreed to work towards engine parity with the leading three engines – from Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault – all within a 0.3-second bracket based on a theoretical lap of the Barcelona circuit.
Followed detailed analysis, using “a very detailed methodology for simulating this based on all the data”, the FIA believes this has been achieved.
Red Bull has questioned the FIA’s conclusion that engine performance has now been basically achieved in formula one.
The report ties in with speculation straggling Honda may be given some help to catch up.
Sergio Perez, a Mercedes-powered Force India driver, agrees that engine parity between the top three manufacturers is close.
“Ferrari has caught up and Renault is not far away,” said the Mexican.
But Renault-powered Dr Helmut Marko has questioned the FIA’s methodology of having analysed the performance of the three engine makes over a series of laps.
“Probably the in and out laps,” he said sarcastically.
As for Perez’s claim that Renault has basically caught up to Mercedes, Marko told Auto Bild: “That’s what he said probably because (Renault’s) Nico Hulkenberg was faster in Bahrain than he was.”
Indeed, Marko may be referring to speculation that Hulkenberg – as the works Renault team’s top driver – is getting the pick of the French-made engines.
“These speculations cannot be dismissed,” said the Austrian.
Also Christian Horner Red Bull team boss, whose Renault-powered Red Bull was 1.711s off the pace of Ferrari pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel in Russia, questioned the FIA’s formula.
“The problem is the methodology behind that,” he told Autosport. Any lap that’s half a second quicker gets discounted.
“It’s a very convenient formula. Realistically you’ve only got to look at the spreads here to see that’s not the case. It’s quite clear that the FIA don’t really want to get involved in it, so the numbers fit accordingly.”
Red Bull young speedy Max Verstappen agreed with his team boss and said the gap was bigger than 0.3s.
“I heard how they did the calculation so if you cancel out all the fast laps with good power, the full power modes – you can’t calculate like that,” he said.
“At the end of the day, as a team, we know where we have to improve and that’s both chassis and engine. It’s definitely more than [three tenths] I can tell you.”
Daniel Ricciardo repeated his team-mate’s claim, stressing: “I’d put money on that.”
Red Bull junior team – Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz said he “nearly laughed” when he read the FIA’s verdict and comments from Force India’s Sergio Perez who said Ferrari and Renault had caught Mercedes.
“I saw news coming out this week about the FIA that the top three engines are within three tenths and I nearly put a comment on Twitter laughing at it,” said the Spaniard after qualifying 11th.
“And then [Force India’s Sergio] Perez saying ‘yes, it’s true, it’s true’. I nearly laughed at it – I think Max also nearly laughed. We’ve made progress, Renault has made progress.
“If not [Nico] Hulkenberg would not be where he is, but we are definitely not closer than half a second compared to Mercedes, especially in qualifying. In the race it’s not that bad, but in qualifying the Mercedes engine has half a second or more.”