While the technical regulations regarding the power units are going into their 4th stable year, Mercedes' engine Chief, Andy Cowell, has noted there are still gains to be made. Cowell underlined that the key to these continued improvements are Mercedes' proven testing facility.
Cowell said in an interview, “We’ve got ideas to reduce the friction in pretty much every area of the power unit, or the losses in electrical systems. Every time you do an engine, every time you do a phase update you’ve always learned.”
“So you freeze the concept, you do the work, you do the prove-out, you go racing and all the way along that journey it’s intensely frustrating because you’re learning but you cannot incorporate into that phase without corrupting the quality fundamentally.”
“So it’s ensuring that we do have a learning culture that observes and learns and reflects and then remembers that so that then, when it’s time to put the next concept together, we’ve got a whole load of ideas and a lot of it is small, marginal gains on well-trodden areas.”
“Some of it is big, fundamental bits of learning, combustion progress, friction reduction, new materials that unlock areas where we’ve been struggling with reliability. And sometimes it’s just a surprise.”
“There’s still gains to be had. It’s a plethora of marginal gains, five-millisecond gains. Then there are those nice surprises where you thought north would give you 2kW and actually it’s south that gives you 2kW. It has just been about doing those great experiments and that’s where the test facility is important.”
“You need to think about what it is you’re trying to measure but you need a very impressive dyno with incredible sensors and good test methodology to genuinely detect those gains and to pick them out from the noise of general testing,” added Cowell.
On the back of 4 years with the strongest engine in F1, Mercedes now looks set to edge ever closer to the magical 1000hp target. Whether that target will be achieved this year is highly questionably, but it looks like a certainty that it will become more and more within reach.