It wasn’t the FIA’s decision to impose the use of only three power units in the championship featuring 24 GPs on the calendar; instead, it was Honda and Mercedes pushing for it, convinced it would put Ferrari in difficulty, given that the 066/10 has a lifespan of 6,000 km, and this year they need to reach 7,500 km. In Maranello, rather than revisiting the 6-cylinder for reliability, they seem to prefer planning the championship with four power units. Less risk and lower costs, but not only that…
The blame is always on the FIA, but we all know it’s not that simple. The proposal to maintain four power units in the 2024 championship didn’t pass in the F1 Commission, even though the calendar extends to 24 Grand Prix races this year, two more than the previous season. Moreover, just last season, there was an exception to using four units for 22 races since six Sprint Races were introduced.
It is true that the regulations written three years ago foresaw the use of only three engines, but it is equally true that the goal, with power units “frozen” in development, was to limit costs to free up resources for the development of the 2026 engines. Once the reliability was achieved to cover the season with four six-cylinders, it was better to maintain the status quo, facilitating everyone’s work.
According to rumors reported by Motorsport Italy, however, it was Honda and Mercedes who chose to reduce the available units to three, evidently aware that they would put Ferrari and Renault in difficulty regarding reliability. The 066/10, taken care of by Enrico Gualtieri, especially after a different use of the hybrid system from mid-season onwards, proved to be a competitive and efficient engine. The Maranello technicians, working meticulously, also managed to limit the power loss at the end of its life that had characterized certain power units in previous years.
The tactical game played by Honda and Mercedes was to change the cards on the table, extending the lifespan of the engines to 8 GPs, an interval never reached in the history of F1, hoping to put in difficulty those, like Ferrari, who had planned a durability of the power units for 6,000 kilometers, while in 2024, they have to reach at least 7,500 kilometers.
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In the paddock, some believe it is a move also designed to slow down the development of Ferrari’s 2026 engine, which seems to have started well according to initial bench tests, but the effect is that everyone will have to deal with different reliability data. But if the goal was to upset the balance, it will be interesting to see the strategies each Constructor adopts to face the 2024 season.
Crucial will be the life that each engine #1 manages to complete: it is conceivable that the first unit will be used in the first 5 weekends, becoming the engine to be used only in free practice with considerably less extreme mappings to extend its lifespan. At that point, we will understand how the season could go, given that the engines are identical to those of 2023.
Will the move attempted by Honda and Mercedes have any effects? It remains to be seen because it is our feeling that Ferrari wants to plan the 2024 championship with four engines, just like last year, preferring to pay a grid penalty to complete the poker hand, rather than risking breaking an engine in a race, especially since some tracks allow more opportunities for comebacks than others.
The idea is not to retest the 066/10, occupying cells intended for the 2026 engine to find the necessary reliability values to cover the 7,500 kilometers. Instead, it is less costly to define a championship with four PUs from the start. The chess game with other Constructors has already begun. Will the winner be the one who made the first move, or will someone be forced to revise their bellicose plans during the operation?