There will be 11 teams racing in Formula 1 in 2016, which is 22 cars. Good, that is a fine number indeed. But these 11 teams are only powered by four different engines. The class-beating Mercedes V6 Hybrid is used by Mercedes, obviously, Williams, Force India and Manor. Ferrari power-plants power Ferrari, Sauber, and Haas. Renault engines power Renault – which was Lotus – Red Bull, and Torro Rosso. Honda are the sole suppliers to McLaren.
I don’t know about you, but this seems like a bit of a missed opportunity for the manufacturers. Most consumers, and many F1 fans, don’t realise that most car brands are in fact part of the same company. You can see who owns who here. It would improve the image of the sport if each of the 11 teams raced with a “different” engine – so much as only being a different badge.
The key here is appeal. If a brand is associated with Formula 1 it by default becomes much cooler. Cooler means more desirable, more desirable means dollar signs.
So what are the options?
Mercedes, which is owned by Daimler AG, could be a bit tricky to diversify. They own the AMG marque which already features in the sport, but the other option is Smart. The Smart car brand doesn’t really fit in with F1 now, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be forged in the future. After all, the Smart car does appeal to younger audiences and certainly congested cities around the world could be targeted.
Including themselves, Mercedes power four teams, so why not badge the engines sold to Manor as Smart, for exampl? We know that it would be the same engine, but it would bring brand awareness and a bit more diversity.
The other option for Mercedes is Aston Martin, with whom they share a technical arrangement. Astons come with Merc power so why not plonk the badge on one and boom, one of the motoring industry's most prestigious brands is back. There were even rumours that this was going to happen with Force India.
Ferrari, which is owned by Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, is part of a massive conglomerate. In the FCA family, Ferrari is related to Lancia, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep. Lancia, Maserati and Alfa Romeo have rich F1 histories of their own already, so why not revive their presence?
Instead of Sauber-Ferrari, you could have Sauber-Alfa Romeo. We know that America is a key market in which F1 continually fails to break into, but we have a prime opportunity here with the all-American Haas team. Why not give them a Ferrari engine badged as a Chrysler? The Hass-Chrysler idea couldn’t be more American. Yes we know it’s a Ferrari engine because we’re experts, but the majority of the audience won’t know that - nor would they care.
Then we come to Renault. The Nissan-Renault Alliance have the Renault and Nissan brands, but also Infiniti – which was used as a title sponsor on the Red Bull cars up to last year. But they also own Dacia, Lada, and Renault-Samsung.
A Nissan or Infiniti badge could easily be glued to the Renault engine and put in the back of the Torro Rosso.
If Honda ever decide they want to supply a second team or, rather, if another team is desperate for an engine and Honda is the only option, why not stick the Acura badge on it?
It may sound like nothing other than window dressing, and sure enough it is, but so what? In the 1960s and 1970s most teams used Cosworth engines but as less emphasis was placed on the motors back then no one really noticed.
Just think, if Volkswagen do eventually get their act together and decide that F1 is a good idea after all, they could build one engine and choose any badge from their range, such as Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, SEAT or even Skoda.
And the good news? F1 cars are now superbly environmentally efficient so if you do develope engine, you won't have to worry about emissions...