Proposed changes to Formula One's engine regulations look set to offer a helping hand to struggling manufacturers such as Renault and Honda as well as offering a potential solution for Red Bull's engine crisis.
The changes will allow in-season development of the power units to continue next year and make it possible for teams to compete with year-old engines -- reversing a change to the regulations published earlier this week.
Under the original plan for the 2016 technical regulations, manufacturers had to submit their power units for homologation on February 28 -- after which no further updates could be made unless they were for reliability, cost-saving or safety purposes. However, at a meeting on Thursday, F1's engine manufacturers and the FIA have agreed to loosen those regulations to allow performance updates after February 28 and throughout the season, as has been the case this year after Ferrari found a loophole in the 2015 regulations.
The original end-of-February deadline would have put intense pressure on Renault and Honda as they attempted to squeeze all their development into a tight schedule, but now more time can be given to the overhaul of certain components that both power units need to be competitive. Speaking before the changes to in-season development had been agreed on Thursday, Honda engine boss Yasuhisa Arai told ESPN: "We would be glad to accept a change to the in-season development restrictions if they do change. We are always in open discussion with other manufacturers and if it does change we will be happy to take it."
Performance upgrades are still set to be controlled by the token system, but according to a report on Autosport.com the amount of tokens available for the 2016 season will remain at 32 for another year rather than being decreased to 25 as originally planned. What's more the areas of development that were due to be frozen at the end of 2015 will remain open for upgrades in 2016.
The proposed changes still need unanimous agreement from all teams at the F1 Commission and to be ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, but the agreement of all four manufacturers and the FIA represents a big step forwards. Mercedes, which is already running a development version of its 2016 engine, stood to benefit the most by restricting in-season development after February 28, but its agreement means their is unlikely to be opposition at later stages of the decision-making process.
The provision to allow engine customers to use 2015 power units next year reverses a change to the regulations that were published as recently as Tuesday, but opens up potential options for Red Bull's two teams -- Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso -- which have yet to secure engine supply deals for 2016.