Engine development tokens have been a failure in F1 and will be scrapped for the 2017 season. In theory this will allow the likes of Honda and Renault to pour money into their engine development departments. Honda might well do this to regain some serious loss of face for the company, but Renault seem reluctant. Is there another mechanism to level the playing field in F1?
No tokens for you
I propose extending the token system to include the chassis and aero package of a car. For example, a team might only be able to run 5 different versions of a component, like a front wing. But more of the same won't work. We need a twist.
The number of development tokens would depend on a team's championship position of the previous year. So Mercedes would get a minimal number of tokens and Manor (or whatever they called this year) will get the most. Now they might not use them, but at least they have the opportunity.
The biggest effect of this system would be that Mercedes would have to run a car very similar to the previous season. This is practical, as long as any rule changes are not too large. That would give the other teams an opportunity to catch up.
This would solve the problem of unlimited spending budgets that are impossible to regulate. So don't try to limit the input to the system, limit the output. Force the top team to use last year's front wing (chassis, engine, etc.) and don't let them change it until they are not the top team anymore.
It would be a tough policy, but F1 is getting to the stage where desperate times call for desperate measures. We need to have more unpredictability of which team is going to win a race.