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FIA ups the ante in F1 engine battle by launching search for standard supplier

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has fired the latest shot in its battle to secure a cheaper alternative engine supplier to Formula One’s main manufacturers by commencing the steps towards an official tender process today (Friday).

The FIA, the motor racing series’ governing body, is seeking applications under a three-year engine supply deal that would run from the 2017 to 2019 seasons. Potential engine suppliers can enter expressions of interest for the contract until 5pm French time on November 23.

“The candidates whose expression of interest meets the requirements…may be entitled to participate in a tendering procedure the aim of which would be to identify an exclusive supplier of the alternative engines to the competitors,” the FIA said. Among the criteria set for any interested candidate was that they must be “entirely independent of a major car manufacturer.”

Today’s development comes after the FIA last month said it would push forward with a plan to introduce a cheaper “client engine” in Formula One from 2017 after revealing that Ferrari blocked a proposal to impose a maximum price on a power unit and gearbox package.

The governing body of world motorsport has been long frustrated in its efforts to introduce cost-cutting measures in F1 and a cheaper engine is being looked upon as a viable alternative to the 1.6 litre V6 turbo-charged power plants introduced at the start of the 2014 campaign.

Customer teams of engine manufacturers Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault are currently said to pay around €20m ($22.7m) per season for a power-unit supply. Japanese automotive giant Honda is also an F1 engine manufacturer but currently holds an exclusive deal with the McLaren team. FIA president Jean Todt recently said €12m would be an acceptable amount to avoid the need for a standard alternative, which would otherwise come in at a price tag of €6-7m.

The Reuters news agency said the alternative engine proposal has still to be presented to the FIA’s Formula One commission and World Motor Sport Council for approval but the first step towards a tender could be seen as a measure of the governing body's determination to act.

In other news, Red Bull Racing has confirmed it will remain in F1 next season after months of speculation regarding the long-term future of the team. Owned by energy drinks giant Red Bull, the UK-based team has endured a frustrating season where it has openly criticised the performance of its current engine partner, Renault.

Red Bull has been seeking to end its contract with the French manufacturer and has warned it may quit the sport if it cannot find a competitive engine. However, the team is reportedly set to strike a new agreement with Renault. Team principal Christian Horner has stated he hopes a decision will be made before the end of the 2015 season, which closes later this month in Abu Dhabi.

Horner told UK broadcaster the BBC: “We are committed to being in F1 next year and in the future. We are working hard to put together as competitive a proposition as possible. I would hope by the close of the season we'll be in a position to announce what our plans are.”