SHANGHAI, China — Formula One took a big step toward the introduction of common engines by 2010 when it opened tenders for a third-party supplier Friday.
FIA, the sport’s governing body, issued a surprise statement saying the supplied engines and transmission systems would be used by competitors in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons.
Formula One chiefs Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone had long promoted the introduction of common engines to cut spiraling costs in the development race between teams, yet Friday’s sudden announcement came without warning.
The radical change was welcomed by the independent teams as a cost-reduction method, but the manufacturer-backed teams which have increasingly come to dominate the sport had been less enthusiastic.
Ferrari, BMW, Renault, Toyota, Honda and Mercedes all heavily back teams F1 teams.
“Any initiative to reduce the cost of Formula One is most welcome,” Force India chief Vijay Mallya said.
“The more you share, the less the costs. This is not rocket science, its logic.”
The FIA’s Friday announcement may be a negotiating tactic designed to force teams to agree large cost-cutting measures when they meet with FIA management in Switzerland next week, rather than an irreversible decision to have common engines.
Gerhard Berger, who owns half of Toro Rosso in partnership with the Red Bull company, welcomed the announcement either way.
“I’m very happy that at least somebody does step one,” Berger said. “It does not say a decision is done.
“We know how much lead time these decisions have and we need to get moving very, very quickly.”
Since the move to a customer engine was first floated, manufacturer teams had expressed reservations about a change that would significantly reduce their ability to use F1 to promote their branded technological expertise.
The extent of commonality in the engines was yet to be determined. Previous discussions had talked of manufacturer teams being able to build their own engines according strictly to a design produced by the common supplier, and thus badge the engine as their own.
The move to a common engine was floated long before the onset of the current world financial crisis, but had become more urgent with anecdotal evidence of a reduction in expressions of interest from new sponsors.
The financial crisis had already led to the cancellation of the 2009 French Grand Prix.