Formula 1

Mercedes’ Hywel Thomas: “We’ve been allowed one final performance upgrade”

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Credit: Daimler AG

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team launched their 2022 challenger the W13 last Friday morning, before completing a shakedown test at a very wet Silverstone. It is the start of a brand-new era in Formula 1, Mercedes will be hoping to dominate this era the same way they dominated the last one up until last season.

Whilst this season see’s the biggest technical regulation change in the sport’s history, the power unit (PU) hasn’t been a component to see much change for this year. Hywel Thomas, Managing Director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP), explained at the launch about how the team have been allowed a final significant upgrade like every other team to the PU.

“In 2022 we’ve been allowed one final performance upgrade, most of which needs to be delivered at the start of the season, and the ERS system upgrade must be introduced before 1st September. But this doesn’t only have an impact on 2022, because the performance specification will remain frozen until the start of the next regulation cycle in 2026, The project we took on for 2022 was large, and it is a very broad upgrade across the different elements, to get every last bit of performance, efficiency and reliability.”

Despite the PU actually being one of the least affected components heading into the new season, it has still seen considerable change. Mercedes have never changed so many parts of their PU since 2014, demonstrating just how big the regulation changes for the upcoming season are. It’s also been vital for the chassis team to work alongside those at Mercedes AMG HPP.

“There are also some FIA-imposed measurements, particularly in the ERS system, that we had to accommodate as well,” said Thomas, “The chassis team have been working very diligently and swiftly through the new regulations, so they can understand where the opportunities lie, and which areas are lap time sensitive. We make adjustments to the PU that allow the chassis team to best exploit the regulations. We might want to rearrange the installation slightly or change the PU layout to get more flexibility in those lap time sensitive areas.

“It doesn’t necessarily sound like that big a change, but it is quite a significant one in the way the fuel and the PU interact. It has been a good development phase for us and working so closely with our partners, PETRONAS, that collaboration is vital.”

Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who will be behind the wheel of the W13 in 2022, may find themselves having to change their driving styles in the new car this year, with a high likelihood that the new technical regulations will result in different car behaviour.

The drivers will want the PU to do different things at different times through corners and potentially from one corner to the next because of the car characteristics.” explained Thomas. “The amount of full throttle time, the way the drivers approach and exit corners, won’t be exactly like they used to be and this will have a knock-on to how we harvest energy and deploy it.
 
“Over the course of the year, given the regulation changes, I think the development of the overall car package will be quite strong, so the way the PU works at the start of the season won’t be the same come the final races of 2022. We must include that ability to be adaptable into the PU from the start of the season, because of the performance freeze.”

Ahead of the team’s shakedown test, which took place just after the launch, Thomas spoke about how emotional it will be for all involved in building the W13, to finally see it out on track.

“For all of us, who are so involved and invested, that is quite emotional, to see the chassis and PU go down the pit lane as one for the first time. To hear the engine, to sit back and reflect on all the components that are working in there together. All the people, the hard work, the effort. It’s always slightly mind-blowing, and it’s a lovely moment to message back to the factory, telling them the car has hit the track.”

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