On the morning of the 2 February, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team launched their challenger for 2021, the W12. The car was launched in Mercedes new Race Bay’s which have been in the making over the past eighteen months.
Due to the unusually short length of time between the end of last season and the start of this season, with there only being twelve weeks since the chequered flag fell at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the launch of the W12, the team have spent long hours both day and night in the factory, in the hunt for those extra few tenths that they can gain in performance, to keep the Brackley-Based team at the front of the pack.
With the McLaren F1 Team becoming the third team to use a Mercedes Power Unit, the other teams being Williams Racing and the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, Hywel Thomas – Managing director of Mercedes-AMG HPP, recognises the pressure and strain that will likely be put on the Power Unit department.
The team have to strike a balance between testing more engines and taking more engines to the first race, and freezing development of the engine as late as possible, before the engine freeze comes into place at the end of the season.
“A third customer team does put more pressure on the organisation, we need to take more engines to winter testing, we need to take more engines to the first race, but we don’t want to freeze our designs any earlier because of that,” said Thomas.
“So that puts some additional strain on the internal and external supply chains and the build and test team, to be able to develop the design for as long as possible.”
However despite the perceived downsides to this, there are advantages for Mercedes in taking on a third team, with them having the feedback from a third set of engineers and designers, which will allow them to improve the engine with ideas coming from three different teams.
“What we gain is another group of chassis designers looking at the PU, looking at how it works, how it’s integrated into the car, how it’s working with the rest of the package. We can add all those comments and ideas into the melting pot of this season and all the subsequent seasons.”
In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic over the winter of last year, restrictions were imposed on manufacturers, so this has been the first winter that allowed for HPP development, working with the reduction in Dyno hours alongside the performance specification that comes with the hardware. The team must decide how they spend their ‘previous’ dyno hours, to not lose performance this season but also similarly, to not lose out on any performance that could be gained ahead of the engine freeze.
“It’s similar to how wind tunnel usage has seen restrictions for a number of years, but we had to implement the restrictions with immediate effect for the dyno, now, we need to decide earlier what projects to focus on, because we can’t afford to use precious dyno hours on ideas that end up not making it to the car.”
Alongside all of this, the Mercedes HPP department is also working on the drastic changes that come with the regulation changes next year, while the power-unit changes my not be as drastic as the chassis, but the team need to strike a balance between performance for 2021, and performance for 2022 with the new cars, requiring long hours of development. On top of this some minor changes will be required to be made to the Energy Recovery System components.
“Starting in 2022, F1 engines will be powered using E10 fuels – so fuels that contain 10 percent ethanol, t his might not sound like a radical change, but it changes the combustion process significantly, so there’s a lot of development work to be done. There are also some changes around the ERS components.”
The biggest changes are obviously on the chassis for 2022, this changes where the Power Unit will be mounted, however it is not known for now how these changes will effect the power unit and what work needs to be done by those developing the Power Unit, to ensure that Mercedes remain at the front of the pack.
“Obviously, the biggest changes in 2022 are on the chassis side, which are enormous. That also impacts all of us in Brixworth because putting the PU into a completely new chassis means there will be some changes where the PU is mounted. As the chassis engineers become more knowledgeable on what they need for the car to go quickly, and how they need to position all the systems within the chassis, the impact on the PU will become clearer as well.”
For the team to find the ideas that make the team so quick, they need to focus all of their efforts on the new regulation changes. Backing these ideas up with the correct amount of resources and time will be imperative for the team this year if they wish to be successful.
“We had already started work on that, as the regulations were originally going to be implemented this year, but now the real challenges begin. We are full steam ahead to optimise the PU for those significant new regulations. So, our ability to find ‘the winners’, the ideas that have the potential to give us an advantage, and back them with the correct amount of resource to develop and deploy them, is going to be key this year.”