Formula 1's backing this week of a plan to reduce engine costs to customer teams – which staves off the threat of an independent power unit in 2017 – has been viewed by some as peace in our time.

By: Jonathan Noble, Formula 1 Editor

Formula 1's backing this week of a plan to reduce engine costs to customer teams – which staves off the threat of an independent power unit in 2017 – has been viewed by some as peace in our time.

After all the tension, posturing and that looming fear of Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt acting on a mandate to make governance changes, grand prix racing's manufacturers realised that they could not sit back.

So after their own private meetings, allied to progress in the Strategy Group and F1 Commission earlier this week, their plan to help out the sport's minnows received the necessary backing.

In return for price limits and supply guarantees, the investment they have made in developing turbo V6 engines will not be wasted, as the current formula – albeit with more standard parts – will remain in place until 2020.

That means the possibility of an independent engine – so desired by Ecclestone – is now gone.

Such a move is a victory for FIA president Todt, who showed some mettle last year in standing up to the teams over costs and demanding they do something, before he was forced to respond on the behalf of the small outfits.

Red Bull vision

Yet what has emerged from Geneva is not good news for everybody, especially for the Red Bull team, which has seen potential for a return to dominance in 2017 evaporate in a matter of weeks.

The first blow came shortly before Christmas, when teams effectively voted to can much of the aerodynamic overhaul coming for 2017 that was designed to make cars faster.

A lot of work had gone into framing a set of rules that everyone wanted, andRed Bull in particular had been delighted that an aggressive version of change it wanted to see - featuring wider front wings and big diffusers - had been backed originally.

Of course it is no surprise to understand why Red Bull – with design guru Adrian Newey still very much at the helm of his drawing board – wanted F1 to go down a route that put downforce back as a key performance differentiator.

Equally, when Mercedes voiced concerns towards the end of last season that the level of downforce being predicted would be too much for tyres to cope with and deliver the right performance – without pressures needing to change dramatically – it was suggested their ulterior motive was to stop potential for Red Bull gains.

Pressure balance

In the end, Pirelli too concurred with the Mercedes theory, suggesting that tyre pressures would have be such to deal with downforce levels that they would negate any performance gains from aerodynamics.

So F1 now looks set to have far less extreme car changes for 2017, with more reliance on wider tyres to deliver gains that are now expected to be in the window of three seconds per lap.

This, of course, will ensure that the performance of engines – which has been so critical for the past two years – will be just as important as now: so Newey's input will not guarantee Red Bull the march to the top of the podium.

No competitive guarantees

But if there were frustrations about the aerodynamic situation for Red Bull, worse has come out of the Geneva meetings, for it has left the Milton Keynes in another potential engine quandary.

Amid its hunt – and ultimate failure – to find a replacement for Renault last season, the potential for a competitive independent engine in 2017 was something that it was openly in favour of.

As Newey told last year: "I think the independent engine is a very good option because it allows private teams to have what should be a competitive engine for a much more reasonable cost.

"If you look back at F1's history, when it is being at its most healthy is when private teams can have access to competitive power units. The Cosworth DFV was the best example of that.

"The cost will be much more reasonable, but I think it is just as important that there is the availability of a competitive power unit."

Indeed, well aware that Todt and Ecclestone would ensure the new power unit would be a match for the turbo V6s, the ingredients were there for it to believe that it could put together a Mercedes-beating package.

Instead, the outcome of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission in ensuring the whole grid will be offered a supply deal means only that it will be assured of an 'engine', not necessarily a competitive one.

With Mercedes and Ferrari already supplying a number of customer teams, the new rules effectively mean that only Honda would have to make some concession for a supply in the future.

And if the Japanese manufacturer's products are not of competitive interest,Red Bull would be left in exactly the same situation as now: facing a marriage of convenience only with Renault.

Red Bull has been silent so far about the impact of the changes – or now lack of changes – coming for 2017 and beyond.

But judging by how it stirred things up last year as it faced competitive challenges, do not be surprised if it doesn't hold its peace for long as it bids to plot its path back to the front.

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