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FIA invites tenders for spec gearbox in F1

19 February 2019

The FIA has invited applications to tender for the sole supply of a standardised gearbox, to be used by all F1 teams from the 2021 season onwards. The move would mark a change from the current system, which sees teams either make their own gearboxes, buy them as part of a complete package from their engine supplier, or in the case of Toro Rosso use the gearbox from sister team Red Bull.

The fixed supply arrangement would, however, only extend to the gearbox cassette itself, and would therefore require teams to make their own gearbox housings, ensuring that they can continue to design their own suspension systems with unique mounting points and aero surfaces.

The primary purpose of the single-supplier arrangement is, according to the FIA, to “retain current levels of Formula 1 gear change performance for all cars at a much reduced cost to teams, while also removing the requirement for teams to design or source their own gearboxes.”

The body also notes that having a spec gearbox cassette would save developmental costs, with the unit being able to be “carried over between seasons”.  The FIA does however acknowledge that the removal of competition, will also lead to some of “the most complex machining saving the last few grams” being replaced with more “cost-effective options”, meaning the final cassette is anticipated to be around 1.5 kg heavier than today’s units.

Interestingly, the tender also offers clues to what Formula 1 cars will look like following the major rules changes in 2021, including details of a MGU-K which is 30 kW more powerful than it is at present. These changes are hinted at as factors that will make achieving a minimum size and weight more difficult.

“Firstly, we need to achieve excellent reliability in the face of a life requirement of around 5000 km. Secondly, there will be an average input speed increase of around 14 per cent from today. Thirdly, there should be some power increase for 2021 relative to today, not just because of natural development, but also because of a 30kW increase in the MGUK output.”

Another, more practical hurdle, is the time frame. The FIA is giving potential suppliers less than a month, requesting tenders by March 15 to enable a decision to be made in mid-to-late April.

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