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Formula 1

Tokens keep McLaren’s Mercedes switch in ‘spirit’ of rules

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Mandating development token spend to change engines for 2021 will keep McLaren in the “spirit of the regulation” without compromising its car layout, reckons midfield Formula 1 rival Racing Point.

McLaren will switch from Renault to Mercedes engines in 2021, but F1 is carrying over fundamental car components to next season and key architectural changes are being strictly controlled to save costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The team will need to use development tokens to make the “minimum necessary” changes to switch engines, rather than improve the rear of the car, which has been called a “bit of a bummer” by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

Racing Point technical director Andrew Green, whose team is expected to fight McLaren for fourth place in the constructors’ championship this season with its controversial Mercedes-influenced RP20, thinks the FIA’s solution is a “reasonable” one.

“We can’t prevent them from changing the power unit, so something had to be done,” said Green when asked by The Race for his thoughts on the compromise.

“I think we’ve come up with a reasonable solution that allows them to change the power unit, allows them to change the back of the chassis, and to use that token to change the power unit.

“And it also allows for all the consequential changes, the knock-on effect of that change is effectively allowed as well, under the watchful eye of the FIA to make sure they’re not exploiting regulations and the changes that are made are a direct result of the power unit change.

“So, I think we’ve come up with a good compromise and they should be able to change their power unit, without compromising the layout of the car.

“They’re still free to change all the aerodynamic aspects of the car. It’s just the underlying architecture we’re trying to try to freeze.

“I think it allows it for the teams like McLaren to do what they need to do. But to stay within the spirit of the regulation.”

F1’s discussion over the token system initially started out as an idea to completely freeze and carry over the cars to 2021.

However, elements such as McLaren’s engine change and the desire for teams to have some freedom – such as aerodynamic work only limited by pre-existing development testing restrictions – meant that position changed.

Green believes the new rules, while complicated, are a good compromise between cutting costs and allowing teams to fix problem areas.

“It’s what we spent most of the shutdown discussing amongst the technical directors and the FIA, how we were going to emerge from this,” said Green.

“It took many weeks, and many meetings, we eventually came up with the solution of a token system.

“I think it works well, I think it doesn’t penalise teams who have got to change parts on the chassis between ’20 and ’21.

“It allows for things like power unit changes, which was part of the issue with just freezing the cars completely which is where we started at the beginning of the shutdown, that we should just carry over the cars.

“You can’t, because some teams have got power unit changes and you don’t want to be locking in issues with a certain design.

“So we came up with the minimum amount of flexibility with the tokens, I think it works well.

“The underlying desire to keep a lot of the car the same is there, but it does allow us to design our way out of any issues that are currently inherent in the current design.”

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