In the world of motors: Under foreign names
In the sixties and seventies of the last century in Formula 1, most of the teams used almost identical Ford Cosworth DFV engines, and only some engines had other engines – Ferrari, BRM, Alfa Romeo … But after the advent of turbo engines, everything changed radically. Since the 80s, the situation with the engines in Formula 1 has been quite confusing.
In the nineties, turbo engines were gone, but the tradition of Formula 1 was inherited from the previous era. Over the years, most teams have tried to find an exclusive partner for the supply of engines, and few of the minders supplied their products to more than one team. The only minder who supplied motors to several teams at once was Ford Cosworth – these engines were used by those who could not find a better option.
All this is very unlike the world we are used to today, when three or four engine manufacturers share the entire peloton. For example, in 1996 Williams and Benetton used Renault engines, McLaren – Mercedes, Jordan – Peugeot, Ligier – Mugen-Honda, Sauber – Ford, Tyrrell – Yamaha, Footwork – Hart … Plus, Ferrari has traditionally used its own engines, and Minardi and Forti had client versions of the Ford Cosworth. Today, one can only dream of such diversity, and yet it made a significant contribution to the alignment of forces.
But there was a flip side to the coin – in the event of the loss of the minder (for example, when the company decided to leave Formula 1), replacing it was extremely difficult. Even strong teams like McLaren faced a serious problem in such situations. What can we say about the middle peasants or outsiders who switched to weak client Ford is not at all from a good life.
The outputs were sometimes the most varied, but, ultimately, everything went to the inevitable solution – the support of each minder several teams. However, at first in such cases, client engines were often branded by someone else. One of the first such a solution (however, similar schemes were used in the 80s) was used by the Sauber team.
After 1996, she lost Ford engines, as they were now supplied by Stewart – in fact the factory team of the American corporation. In 1997, Petronas engines were formally powered by Sauber machines – although, of course, Malaysian oil workers did not build engines. In fact, it was last year’s Ferrari engines.
In 1998, an even more alarming situation developed: two minders immediately left the championship – Renault and Yamaha. Worst of all, Renault not only built the best engines in Formula 1, but also delivered them to two leading teams, Williams and Benetton. It turned out to be impossible to solve problems within the framework of the existing system – there were simply nowhere for two motorists to take.
Ford customers, of course, did not fit either team. Last year’s Ferrari no one would give them. All decent options were connected by contracts and long-term relationships – Mercedes hoped to turn McLaren into a factory team, Mugen-Honda held tightly in the hands of Eddie Jordan, Peugeot plunged deep into another French national project, in which Alain Prost bought out the Ligier team, and Ford had a pocket Stewart team, with whom they planned to succeed.
In addition, difficult times came at the international car markets, so none of the new car manufacturers in Formula 1 with its crazy budgets even then broke. What was to be done? .. As a result, a compromise was found – Renault Sport agreed to continue the construction and refinement of its engines with the money of Mecachrome, the company responsible for the preparation of Renault engines in Formula 1 from the beginning of the 80s. Of course, this meant that the motors would now be called Mecachrome: in 1998, they were placed under this brand on Williams, and in Benetton the same motors were named after one of their clothing brands: Playlife.
However, in the middle of the season, Flavio Briatore unexpectedly appeared on the scene, fired from Benetton a year earlier. At the Monaco Grand Prix in 1998, he announced that Super Performance Competition Engineering, which he co-operated with Bruno Michel, now owns exclusive rights to supply Mecachrome motors, and since 1999 all teams wishing to receive these engines will have to buy them from SPCE. And they will now be called Supertec.
The statement caused, if not a storm, then at least a slight commotion in the paddock. The proposed scheme looked rather unusual, and it was completely unclear how Briatore was convinced to go on a deal between Mecachrome and Renault. There were persistent rumors that in reality Bernie Ecclestone is behind all this, and Flavio is only the manager of the new structure. There was no evidence, however.
The teams tried to resist – for example, Williams said that they have a two-year agreement with Mecachrome, which they are going to adhere to.