Formula One should prioritise implementing a spending cost cap if it wants to reduce the large performance gaps that currently exist in the sport, according to Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe.
The dominance of Lowe’s former team Mercedes since the introduction of 1.6 litre V6 hybrid engines in 2014 has led to criticism of F1, prompting the sport’s rule makers to find a path to help level the playing field. An aerodynamic regulation overhaul over the winter enabled Ferrari and Red Bull make significant gains on Mercedes, but the German manufacturer was still able to wrap up both world championships before the end of the season.
More alarming is the gap to the team’s behind F1’s ‘big three’, with Haas team principal Guenther Steiner claiming Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were as much as 1.5s clear of the rest of the pack at the start of 2017. F1 teams and manufacturers are set to be handed a blueprint for post-2020 plans in Tuesday’s engine meeting in Paris, with the aim of finding a solution that allows for cheaper, louder and sufficiently powerful engines that remain relevant to future automotive technology in order to future-proof the sport.
But Lowe does not think the current engine dilemma F1 is facing is its greatest concern.
“I think when you look at F1 although there is a lot of discussions about the problems with engines — it isn’t the biggest problem in the sport,” Lowe explained. “It is seen as a problem among the top three teams fighting for the top steps but the biggest problem at the moment is the disparity to the remainder of the teams. It is not a round engine choice.
“I don’t think [engines] are the biggest problem in the sport. If you go look at the race in Austin and the performance split between the top six — well top five in the end — and then the rest, it was two different races and that isn’t split on engine grounds. I think this is one of the problems in the sport where the [spending] gap is extremely large. We need to find some great wisdom to get through that.”
While many in the paddock believe a new engine formula will create greater competition, Lowe insists stability in regulation-making would eventually solve the issue of performance disparity among teams.
“I think whenever you change regulations you always create opportunity and actually create a divergence whether it is around engines or current limits. What creates convergence is regulation stability.
“The more you leave things alone — you see that with the engines today as they are a lot closer than they were three years ago. I think the new regulation change has to be done with great care. I find it curious that people place emphasis on new regulations needed to create convergence when it does the opposite.”