Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell believes it is easier for a big car manufacturer to start a Formula One engine programme now than it was during the V8 and V10 eras.
The current V6 turbo power units have been criticised for their cost and complexity, and labelled as a potential barrier to entry for new manufacturers looking to join F1. Last year Honda joined Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault as an engine supplier but struggled to get up to speed, while the VW Group showed an interest before its emissions scandal broke. However, Cowell believes it is easier for a manufacturer to enter the sport now than it has been for two decades.
"It's not impossible and it's easier to do than in the V8 or V10 era," he said. "It's easier for 'company X', which currently sells cars in the world and is doing an efficiency-technology drive, to go 'we want to compete in F1, let's do it'.
"If we go back to 2000, the regulations fitted on one page and now they are on 18 pages, and that's actually prescribing a lot of it. Twenty years ago you used to spend days figuring out what the bore size should be or how many cylinders you should have, but now it's in the regs. So I think it's easier and it would be great if it happened."
Cowell explained that the materials used to build the current engines are not particularly exotic and the technology being developed is far more relevant to road car projects than previous F1 engines.
"Because the V10s and V8s were so specialist -- 20,000rpm and 19,000rpm naturally aspirated engines -- they were very peculiar to Formula One. There's not even any other motor sport categories doing that and definitely not road cars.
"I think we do still learn from Daimler [Mercedes' parent company] and those initial links that we set up with Daimler on the technology, those communications are still in place and the dialogue is two way. We are still picking up pieces of technology and we are feeding back bits of technology. As long as that is in place, Formula One with this set of regulations should be interesting to works manufacturers.
"I think that's the thing that pulls them in, but does it get to the point where they think it would be great but ask 'what is needed to win?' Because there is no point in entering if you don't win. Well, there's no unobtainium in there [the engine], you don't need to travel to Mars [to get the materials]. The steels that are used are used in aerospace and automotive, the aluminiums are used in aerospace and automotive, the fasteners are not remarkable, the shapes are evolved but they are all shapes that other people can come up with. There aren't any magic magnets in there, they are all magnets that you can read about in Wikipedia and source from three or four manufacturers around the world.
"It's all doable, but do you need to get a setup with a group of people that have got the right ambition and attitude? And do you need four or five dynos and connections with the right suppliers? Yes, you do."