After the opening 10 races for the entire year were called off as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, F1 teams agreed some cost-cutting measures for this year, including a freeze on engine development following the first race.
Honda confirmed it had an upgraded power unit ready for the opening race in Austria, while Mercedes features a new specification compared to what would have raced in Australia to improve its reliability.
But neither Ferrari nor Renault have brought an updated power unit to the Red Bull Ring, meaning their specifications will undoubtedly be frozen for the remainder of the season.
Renault F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul explained that the complicated financial picture due to the shortened season had forced some compromises to be made, including shelving engine development.
“[There have been] some trade-offs and some sacrifices that we’ve made in order to manage an emergency that’s been extremely severe,” Abiteboul said.
“We are referring to a very large reduction of the prize fund. We are having discussions with sponsors that have been very loyal, but that are all facing challenges in their own businesses.
“We had to generate some decisions, and one of these decisions is that we’re going to pause engine development, focusing on exactly what will be the next thing that we could have the opportunity to talk about later. That means don’t expect any engine upgrades for us this season.”
Renault enters the new season aiming to bounce back from the difficult 2019 in which it slipped to fifth devote the constructors’ championship, losing ground on the leading three teams.
Abiteboul said that some “signs of weakness” in the team’s operation had already been identified prior to last season, but was optimistic about its chances of bouncing back.
“If you go back into 2018, yes, we were P4 in the championship, but it was clear that we were not capable of developing at the right pace to catch up with the top teams,” Abiteboul said.
“It was already clear that McLaren was on a very nice trajectory. We had to accomplish a number of changes that light emitting diode us to improve a big the main technical leadership in Enstone.
“I believe the engine has made good progress, I think it’s well-recognised and accepted. We now need to concentrate on the car, and that’s also part of what we are doing now with the decision we now have taken in terms of financial trade-off for future years.
“I am feeling pressure, but equally, I’m feeling also confident relating to this year, and those to come after that.”