Jacques Villeneuve’s former team manager Craig Pollock is geared up to launch a new, efficient engine for Formula 1 in line with the revised FIA rules mandating 4-cylinder turbos scheduled to take effect in the 2013 season. Pollock, who was team principal for British American Racing (BAR) during its first two seasons in the sport, is to head up PURE — Propulsion Universelle et Recuperation d’Energie.
“There are only four suppliers to date for 12 teams, and there is no guarantee there [are still] going to be four suppliers in 2013,” said Pollock. “Our design and development is already way down the road and we are now ready to approach the teams. We’re going to come in with a very cost-effective, high quality engine, and we believe there are many teams out there who will be looking for a change of supplier going forward.”
For more than a decade, Formula 1 has been dominated by automobile manufacturer “factory” teams, and as a result we’ve seen a dramatic decline of independent F1 racing organizations. In fact, Williams is the only team that exists solely to race in Formula 1; its recent lack of success is very illuminating of the challenges faced by independents. Red Bull Racing, for instance, sells energy drinks and the boss of Force India has many other business enterprises. All of that has made customer engines a rarity. While some of the big teams (like Red Bull) technically “buy” their engines, in that case from Renault, the relationship between F1 constructor and engine supplier is extraordinarily close, more of a partnership than that of vendor-customer.
An F1 engine available to everyone on roughly equivalent financial and technical terms — as was the case for more than 20 years with the famed Ford Cosworth DFV from 1968 on — would represent a transformative event, harkening back to the days of trailblazing “privateer” Grand Prix racing teams like those of Rob Walker and, later, Ken Tyrrell.
One of the questions raised by the [modern] engine deals is whether customers are getting the same engine as the works team. If Ferrari supply Toro Rosso with their top of the range engine, is it not slightly embarrassing that they were completely outclassed in Italy, with Vettel winning?
Eliminating this uncertainty and making top-notch power plants available to all teams for purchase is a great development. While there is hardly a realistic chance even this would allow one-off private teams to get back into the sport, given the tremendous financial demands of modern F1 chassis and aerodynamic design, it still would be a welcome break for smaller teams and backmarkers. Good luck, Craig!