Mercedes unveils its most advanced F1 ever, the W09 EQ Power+

More than a machine

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By Olivier Ferret

22 February 2018 - 13:36
Mercedes unveils its most advanced (...)

Keen to start racing again next month, an excited Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team launched its new car today at the Silverstone International Circuit with a multimedia reveal show, live online broadcasts and shakedown runs.

With only a little over a month to go until the first race of the 2018 FIA Formula One season, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport today took the wraps off the all new Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+.

Team partners, guests and media joined the team for the reveal show at Silverstone, while Mercedes fans around the world took part in the action and watched the unveiling of the new F1 challenger live online. For one fan in particular, shakedown day turned out to be a once in a lifetime experience. Having won the team’s launch contest, he and his stepdaughter were invited for a VIP experience on-site at Silverstone. The main reveal show paid tribute to Mercedes’ long motorsport history, featuring emotional footage of some of the team’s most painful defeats and most thrilling victories.

As the most advanced machine ever conceived by Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, the 2018 car aims to write its own chapter in that long racing heritage while at the same time pushing the technological boundaries of motorsport. The F1 W09 EQ Power+ is improved in every area over its predecessor and will become the fastest Mercedes Formula One car in history.

Christened Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+, the new car proudly carries the “EQ Power+” designation which was launched to the world on last year’s car. As part of the naming strategy of Mercedes-AMG, “EQ Power+” stands for the brand’s future performance hybrid models. The Formula One team is proud to have led the way that was followed by the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE show car revealed in Frankfurt last year. The EQ Power+ designation places the F1 car and its state-of-the-art hybrid power unit at the forefront of the future Mercedes-AMG line-up, showcasing how F1 technology is accelerating the future of motor racing and automotive technology in general.

The launch was part of the team’s official 100 km filming day, during which the F1 W09 EQ Power+ completed its first laps of Silverstone’s 2.98 km International Circuit with Valtteri Bottas behind the wheel. Lewis Hamilton’s run in the car is scheduled for the early afternoon.

More than a machine: 1,000 years of working hours, the hopes and dreams of the entire Mercedes family

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,” said Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, describing the atmosphere in the team prior to launch day. “It’s never going completely seamlessly or smoothly when you’re trying to push the boundaries. We’ve had a good winter, I would say, no real drama. But it was a lot of hard work for everyone in the team.”

Since Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport started working on the new car nearly 7,000 drawn parts have been created, over 40,000 components have been through non-destructive testing inspection. In total, 3,150 Saturday morning breakfasts have been served in the team’s on-site restaurant...

“The winter is intense,” continued Technical Director James Allison. “The planners have got thousands of lines of plans to deliver on, the design group have got to deliver several hundred new designs per day in order that they can be made. The test and development group and the team running the dynos have to stand ready as the pieces come in hot from the machines, to assemble them and put them on all the in-house testing kit. This allows us to be reasonably sure that everything is strong enough and has the right shape and will perform reliably.”

While working on different areas of the car, the approach to developing and building the new car is the same in Brackley and Brixworth. Last year’s Championships don’t impact the way the two factories prepare for the season. Every team member knows that the points reset to zero for 2018 – and that even greater challenges await in 2018.

“We are trying to stay humble and just keep doing the fundamental work we have always done,” explains Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains. “There is no secret formula to what we do. It is plain, honest engineering work. If there’s an idea of how to reduce friction or improve combustion efficiency, we discuss it in our forum in a very forthright way. The sources of all ideas are human creativity, passion and enthusiasm.”

The outcome of roughly a millennium’s worth of working hours, the new car is more than a machine. It’s a demonstration of teamwork and represents the hopes and dreams not just of the drivers, the team, its partners and the entire Daimler family – but of Mercedes fans all around the world. The first shakedown run was watched with excitement not just by the team members at the circuit, in Brackley and Brixworth, but also by colleagues and fans around the globe.

“It’s really amazing to know how many hours have been spent on designing and manufacturing the new car and how much effort people have put into it,” said Valtteri Bottas. “As a driver you feel really special to be able to drive that machine.”

“It’s very humbling to see everything coming together,” agreed Lewis Hamilton. “People have worked so hard on this car, committed for such a long period of time. I’m just keen to get out there and take it to its limits. I’m one of only two people who get to drive it and there’s this proud feeling because I know how much work has gone into getting the car ready.”

An all new car with some familiar DNA

The all-new F1 W09 EQ Power+ shares some of the DNA of its predecessor. Affectionately dubbed a “diva” for its occasional lack of predictability, the 2017 Mercedes F1 car was nevertheless the most successful car of the past season. The aerodynamic regulations remained largely stable for the 2018 season, with the introduction of the Halo and the ban of both monkey seat and high T-wings being the biggest changes. So the team chose to follow a similar design philosophy, aimed at developing the many strengths of the 2017 car and improving its weaker areas.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” explained Toto. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

“Last year’s car was never easy to work with, even at the tracks where we were strong,” added James. “We could find our way through the weekend to a competitive outcome, but it was never easy. We hope that we have made some inroads into that and that this year’s car will speak to us as engineers and to the drivers a little more clearly so that it is more obvious what to do to dial it in.”

The new car stays true to the general design principles of its championship-winning predecessor, retaining the same wheelbase and running slightly increased rake. However, working with a well-understood set of regulations meant the team could push the design to greater extremes in every area.

“Across the board, this design is more elegant than last year,” said James. “Last year’s regulations were brand new and we weren’t quite sure which direction they would take us in. So last year’s car had a certain amount of wiggle room to adapt if we had found that we needed to move around certain aspects of the car. This year, being a little more confident of what we’re aiming for, we’ve been able to commit more fully to certain concepts. So we have the packaging much tighter and have taken things to more of an extreme.”

Significant updates to the power unit

The new power unit M09 EQ Power+ has been developed to meet substantial changes in the Sporting Regulations for the 2018 season. The reduction in the number of power unit components that can be used per driver per season without incurring grid penalties meant that durability had to be extended to withstand the higher distances the hardware now has to run.

“The amount of change on the power unit for this year is quite considerable and driven by a number of requirements,” explained Andy. “The biggest challenge we’ve got is lifting our durability limit with the challenge of racing just three engines per driver per championship and two ERS systems. That’s a 40 per cent increase in the distance that the hardware needs to do for this year compared with last year. We focussed on trying to increase the life of the hardware without losing performance.”

In addition to the changes coming from the new Sporting Regulations, the team of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains sought to improve the power unit in other areas as well.

“We also wanted to change the packaging of the power unit for the benefit of overall car performance,” Andy continued. “We’ve been working very closely with our colleagues in Brackley, trying to understand the best overall integration in the chassis, the transmission and the aerodynamic surfaces. We’ve also been working on combustion efficiency and hardware friction reduction in partnership with Petronas.”

A strong driver line-up for the 2018 season

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport will race with the same driver line-up that won a total of 668 points last year, winning the Constructors’ Championship by 146 points. The expectations for the new season are predictably high.

“Valtteri had a great start in 2017, having been drafted very last minute, with highlights in Sochi and Austria”, said Toto. “After the summer, things became more difficult but he came back very strong. Valtteri has learned a lot, racing against the best Formula One driver of the current day and age.”

“I want to use all the things that I learned last year,” explained Valtteri. “This year is all about executing and delivering the results. For me, consistency is the key. I had some really good races, but then I had races where I was not on the level I wanted to be. I want to be on a good level on every single race weekend – that’s going to be the goal for me this year. I definitely want to fight for the championship.”

Lewis will start his sixth season with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in 2018. His record with the team is impressive and includes four Constructors’ and three Drivers’ Championships as well as 41 race wins.

“Lewis is an incredible driver, the best of our time. What he has achieved together with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is remarkable,” said Toto Wolff. “In addition to his performance on track, he has become an important figurehead of the team outside the race car as well.”

“It’s hard to believe that it’s already our sixth year together,” Lewis said. “It feels like it’s gone by so quick. I remember my first time coming to the factory in Brackley, doing my first seat fit and it’s just strange to think that now we’re here as far down the line. It has just been a dream experience – working with the greatest team and extending my relationship with Mercedes who I first signed with when I was 13. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster together.”

What’s more, Lewis believes his relationship with the team can get even better in the future: “Mercedes already is the best team and it continues to grow ever stronger. The foundation is very strong and now they’re putting the right building bricks in place for the years ahead. I think the team is going to continue to grow and I hope that I can be a part of that for as long as I can.”

The team also announced its reserve drivers for the 2018 season. Duties will be shared between 2017 GP3 champion George Russell, who will compete in FIA Formula Two this year, and Pascal Wehrlein, who will combine his reserve driver role with a return to the DTM, where he won the title in 2015.

A full race calendar in 2018

The new Formula One season holds a busy schedule for the teams. 21 races make it the joint-longest season in F1 history. The calendar sees two addition compared to last year – the German GP at Hockenheim and the French GP at Paul Ricard. One event that always was very special to everyone at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has been dropped from the calendar for the new season – the Malaysian Grand Prix.

“I’m going to miss Malaysia,” said Toto. “It’s the home of our title partner Petronas and it’s sad that we won’t be going to Sepang this year. For the new races that will return to the calendar, I’m happy that we will go back to Germany. It’s just a two-hour drive from Stuttgart, so it’s a home race for Mercedes and we hope that many of our Daimler friends can join us at the race. And regarding Paul Ricard – there’s obviously worse places to be than in the South of France in the summer!”

The team is especially excited to go back to Hockenheim. The track is just a little over 100 kilometres away from the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart and the Mercedes-AMG base of operations in Affalterbach. In other words: Together with Silverstone, the team is looking at two home Grands Prix this year.

“The old Hockenheim circuit was one of my favourites back then,” said Lewis. “But the track is still great as it is now. It’s quite small but it has that big long straight in the back which creates good racing. I’m excited to be going back, Germany has such a great fan base for motor racing.”

“I’ve raced so many times at Hockenheim, the first time was probably in 2007 with Formula Renault,” said Valtteri. “And I’ve been racing there in F3 as well and GP3. It’s always been a great circuit to go to. And I have good memories from the 2014 F1 race, when I came in second with Lewis just behind me. Hopefully we can get the same result this year – just one place better. And it will be good to go back with Mercedes as it will be a home race for us.”

Q&A with Lewis Hamilton

Question: Lewis, today you’ll get to take the new F1 W09 EQ Power+ on the track. Last week you visited Brackley. How did it feel to be back?

Lewis Hamilton: It felt great to be back. It’s always such a great working environment in the factory. The first time back in the year is always exciting because there’s great anticipation of the car being built. It’s very humbling to see everything coming together. People have worked so hard on this car, committed for such a long period of time. I’m just keen to get out there and take it to its limits. I’m one of only two people who get to drive it and there’s this proud feeling because I know how much work has gone into getting the car ready.

Question: The new car is more than a machine – it’s the most advanced Mercedes F1 car ever built, but it also represents more than a thousand years’ worth of working hours as well as the team’s hopes and dreams. Does that put extra pressure on you?

Lewis Hamilton: To be honest, the pressure I put on myself has always been the most. But there’s added pressure. You’re nervous about damaging the car that all these people have worked so hard on – but I know that they don’t think about that. They know that I am going to give it everything and that’s what they want to see. I know what potential I have in me and I just want to make sure I utilise that and bring the out the maximum of potential of the great machine the team has built.

Question: 2018 will be your sixth season with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, your record with the team is impressive. How do you feel when you look back on the time with the team so far?

Lewis Hamilton: It’s hard to believe that it’s already our sixth year together. It feels like it’s gone by so quick. I remember my first time coming to the factory in Brackley, doing my first seat fit and it’s just strange to think that now we’re here as far down the line. It has just been a dream experience – working with the greatest team and extending my relationship with Mercedes who I signed with when I was 13. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster together.

Question: How do think the team has developed over the past five years?

Lewis Hamilton: Already when I first came it felt like a real racing team – with the factory and the way it is set up. But the team has come such a long way since then. Having Toto at the forefront of it, seeing his vision come together, it’s really quite remarkable how the factory and the energy in the buildings has shifted. The working environment is just phenomenal, it has improved so much and to see that reflected in the work that people are doing is incredibly impressive and inspiring. It’s been amazing to see.

Question: Looking into the future – where does the team need to develop?

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes already is the best team and it continues to grow into a stronger team. The foundation is very strong and now they’re putting the right building bricks in place. I think the team is going to continue to grow and I hope that I can be a part of that for as long as I can.

Question: Who do you think will be our main competitors this year?

Lewis Hamilton: It’s difficult to say at the moment, but naturally you can imagine that it is going to be very close with Ferrari and Red Bull who were so competitive at the end of the year. But maybe another team will surprise as well.

Question: We see a few changes for the new season – less power unit components, the halo, new tyre compounds. What do you make of that?

Lewis Hamilton: It’s getting harder and harder for the team in Brixworth and the people in Brackley, but they’re continuously rising to the challenge which is great to see. I think it will be tough for everyone this year with the regulation changes. It puts more emphasis on me, making sure that I’m very careful with the engine. We just need to make sure that we maximise it as much as possible. Reliability will continue to be a key player in the sport as it has been in previous years. But I know that I’ve got the best team working as hard as they can to make sure that we’re at the forefront of that.

Question: With the introduction of the halo the minimum weight of the car increased by 5 kilograms to 733 kilograms. What impact does that have from a driver’s perspective?

Lewis Hamilton: The car is getting pretty heavy year on year and that does affect the car when you’re driving it. Adding weight just slows the car down, but it gets faster with development again. I think at the moment seeing the halo on the car is quite alien to us, but I’m sure we will get used to it and it will become the norm before we know it.

Question: In 2018, we will go back to Hockenheim in Germany and also race at Paul Ricard in France. What are your thoughts about that?

Lewis Hamilton: I remember my first time to Hockenheim. I think I was 13, I went along with Nico. I was sitting with Ron and he was asking us if we could cope with being in the same team as kids. That was at the old Hockenheim circuit which was one of my favourites back then. But the track is still great as it is now. It’s quite small but it has that big long straight in the back which creates good racing. I’m excited to be going back, Germany has such a great fan base for motor racing. It’s important that we go to countries where there is a long lifeblood of fans because this sport would be nothing without its fans. We are going to new countries and new territories which currently might not have a real fan base and the goal is always to encourage new people to join. But we can’t ignore the true fans that are at the heart and core of this sport. So I’m really glad that we’re going back to both Germany and France.

Question: Last question: What are you most excited about in 2018?

Lewis Hamilton: I’m just looking forward to racing again. It’s crazy – I’ve been racing forever, but it’s still freaking good. I still get the buzz. So I’m just excited to get back into it. I could pretty much race every day.

Q&A with Valtteri Bottas

Question: Valtteri, last year you had a hectic winter as you joined Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport at short notice. How was your winter this year?

Valtteri Bottas: This year I could really relax, focus on my health and my training. I did a lot of training, especially in January and February. I’m feeling fresh, healthy and fit for the new season.

Question: You spent a few days in the factory in the past weeks. How would you describe the atmosphere in the team?

Valtteri Bottas: It’s always really interesting to go to the factory for the first time after the break, to see how things have been going since December. Even though people get some holiday over Christmas and New Year, there are always people at the factory working on the new car. It’s really interesting to see how the winter has been going, how the new car is coming together. I had a number of meetings with my engineers regarding the approach for the new season. I also did quite a lot of simulator work for winter testing and the season ahead.

Question: You will be the first person to drive the new Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+, our challenger for the 2018 season. How does that feel?

Valtteri Bottas: It’s really amazing to know how many hours have been spent on designing and manufacturing the new car and how much effort people have put into it. As a driver you feel really special to be able to drive that machine. We all just hope that it’s going to be a good machine, a quick one.

Question: 2018 comes with a few changes – the halo, less power units to be used per driver per championship. What are your thoughts on that?

Valtteri Bottas: I have done more than one race distance in the simulator with the halo and I got used to it during the first race. Initially it was a bit weird to see the halo, but I got completely used to it; it’s not disturbing any more so I’m fine with it. I’m sure it’s going to look a bit strange for all the fans initially as well because there’s never been anything like that on a Formula One car. But as it is with all the changes in the past, something new always looks a bit weird in the beginning, before people get used to it. If the halo can protect even from a small injury, then that’s a good rule change. Regarding the power units, we hope to keep a similar level of reliability to last year when we were very reliable. That’s all thanks to all the hard work in Brixworth. We hope that the new PUs will be powerful and reliable and that we won’t have any issues with the new regulations.

Question: Formula One is coming back to Germany in 2018 and will also see the addition of a French GP at Paul Ricard. How do you feel about that?

Valtteri Bottas: I’ve raced so many times at Hockenheim: the first time was probably in 2007 with Formula Renault. And I’ve been racing there in F3 as well and GP3. It’s always been a great circuit to go to. And I have good memories from the 2014 F1 race, when I came in second with Lewis just behind me. Hopefully we can get the same result this year – just one place better. And it will be good to go back with Mercedes as it will be a home race for us.

Question: That’s your goal for Hockenheim. But what’s your goal for the season?

Valtteri Bottas: I want to use all the things that I learned last year. This year is all about executing and delivering the results. For me, consistency is the key. I had some really good races, but then I had races where I was not on the level I wanted to be. I want to be on a good level on every single race weekend – that’s going to be the goal for me this year. I definitely want to fight for the championship.

Question: We saw a close battle with Ferrari last year. Who do you think are going to be the main competitors this year?

Valtteri Bottas: On paper, Ferrari and Red Bull look like they will be our toughest competitors. But we should not underestimate any other teams. It’s a new season and you never know what people in other teams have come up with. McLaren and Renault can be very strong. And you never know about Williams either they have shown some strengths in the past few years. So it’s going to be really interesting how it’s going to be.

Question: What are the three things you’re most excited about in 2018?

Valtteri Bottas: Number one will be the first time getting into the new car. It’s always super exciting to drive the new car for the first time and get a feel for it. And knowing that so many hours of work have gone in to it makes it even more special. Number two will be Melbourne. It’s always really cool to get on the starting grid for the first time and seeing what we can do as a team compared to the others. And number three: I’m looking forward to all the new wins and a good end result for the year.

Q&A with Toto Wolff

Question: How was the atmosphere in Brackley and Brixworth in the last weeks? Did you have a good winter?

Toto Wolff: It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive. It’s never going completely seamlessly or smoothly when you’re trying to push the boundaries. We’ve had a good winter, I would say, no real drama. But it was a lot of hard work for everyone in the team.

Question: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport won last year’s Constructors’ Championship by 146 points, with Lewis winning the Drivers’ Title by 46 points. How does that influence the team’s approach to the new season?

Toto Wolff: We’re extremely happy and proud of last year’s titles. But for the new season, all points go back to zero. A success of the past is in no way a guarantee for success in the future. I’m very happy to be part of a team that is well aware of that fact and stays humble about its achievements. At the same time, we’re extremely motivated and energised. We’re ready to go out there and start racing again and hopefully will be in the fight for the title again this year.

Question: You famously called last year’s car “a bit of a diva”. Will the new car be a diva as well?

Toto Wolff: We like some of the character traits from our diva. The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.

Question: The new season sees Formula One travelling to Germany and France while the sport said goodbye to Malaysia in 2017 after 19 years. What are your thoughts on the calendar?

Toto Wolff: I’m going to miss Malaysia. It’s the home of our title partner Petronas and it’s sad that we won’t be going to Sepang this year. For the new races that will return to the calendar, I’m happy that we will go back to Germany. It’s just a two-hour drive from Stuttgart, so it’s a home race for Mercedes and we hope that many of our Daimler friends can join us at the race. And regarding Paul Ricard – there’s obviously worse places to be than in the South of France in the summer!

Question: The 2018 season will also be the joint longest season in Formula One history. What does that mean for the team?

Toto Wolff: It’s very difficult for the team. Not only are we doing 21 races, but all of us have a normal day job as well. So it is pretty stressful for the organisation and also for the individuals. I think we shouldn’t be going much further than 21 races, also because it dilutes the exclusivity of the events. Last year’s 20 races were already very difficult for the team, so this is something that I see as a limit.

Question: Let’s talk drivers. 2018 will be Lewis’ sixth season with Mercedes. What is your view of his time with the team so far?

Toto Wolff: Lewis is an incredible driver, the best of our time. What he has achieved together with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is remarkable. Three Drivers’ Championships, four Constructors’ Championships, 41 race wins in five years. In addition to his performance on track, he has become an important figurehead of the team outside the race car as well.

Question: Valtteri’s first year with Mercedes was a bid of a mixed bag. What do you expect of him for the new season?

Toto Wolff: Valtteri had a great start in 2017, having been drafted very last minute, with highlights in Sochi and Austria. After the summer, things became more difficult but he came back very strong. Valtteri has learned a lot, racing against the best Formula One driver of the current day and age.

Question: Mercedes will enter Formula E in the 2019/2020 season. Why?

Toto Wolff: The automotive universe is changing rapidly and what exists today could look very different in 10 years. On the road, Daimler has achieved the span of innovation from its premium brand Mercedes-Benz all the way to an exciting start-up like car2go. And now we are doing the same on the race track, too. For us, Formula One is the premium global motor racing series and Formula E is the promising, disruptive start-up. We embrace both.

Q&A with James Allison

Question: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport presented the F1 W09 EQ Power+ today. When did you start working on it?

James Allison: Formula One teams are always managing two things at once. They are pursuing a championship with a car that was conceived well over a year before. And at the same time as they’re racing, they’re busy trying to dream up the next one. So the new car has been on the drawing board since before January 2017.

Question: The factories in Brackley and Brixworth have been particularly busy in the past few weeks. What exactly was going on?

James Allison: The winter is intense. The planners have got thousands of lines of plans to deliver on, the design group must deliver several hundred new designs per day in order that they can be manufactured. All of the test and development people and the people running the dynos have to stand ready as the pieces come in hot from the machines, to assemble them and put them on all the in-house testing kit. This allows us to be reasonably sure that everything is strong enough and has the right shape and will perform reliably.

Question: What were the biggest challenges you faced when creating the new car?

James Allison: We were in a proper Championship fight last year – a fight that for most of the season looked like it was going to go down to the last race. That championship of course had a very strong call on our efforts. And so throughout the whole of last year we were always trying juggle correctly how to win last year’s Championship and not rob Peter to pay Paul. The challenge was to ensure that all the things we were doing on last year’s car were going to have both the opportunity to win us the Championship and also move the performance forward in a way that would be inherited in our new car. Time will tell whether we juggled well or not. Another big challenge was one that is borne largely on the shoulders of our team-mates in Brixworth. Going from four power units to three is a significant increase in the durability required from the power unit and the determination not to surrender power in exchange for that durability is significant. The halo was also a lot of work, but it is dwarfed by comparison with these main efforts.

Question: What can you tell us about the design of the new car?

James Allison: Across the board, this design is more elegant than last year. Last year’s regulations were brand new and we weren’t quite sure which direction they would take us in. So last year’s car had a certain amount of wiggle room to adapt if we had found that we needed to move around certain aspects of the car. This year, being a little more confident of what we’re aiming for, we’ve been able to commit more fully to certain concepts. So we have the packaging much tighter and have taken things to more of an extreme. That’s where a lot from the elegance comes from. It’s funny – the thing that you loved and that you poured all your heart into the year before, instantly looks out of date when you compare it to the new one – and that’s the lot of every racing car that’s ever been produced. Nothing goes out of date quicker than an old racing car.

Question: Toto famously called last year’s car a “diva” for its occasional lack of predictability. How much of a diva will our new car be?

James Allison: There will still be a bit of a diva in the new car because no one has ever produced a car that doesn’t have foibles. Last year’s car was never easy to work with, even at the tracks where we were strong. We could find our way through the weekend to a competitive outcome, but it was never easy. We hope that we have made some inroads into that and that this year’s car will speak to us as engineers and to the drivers a little more clearly so that it is more obvious what to do to dial it in. Last year we had to do things that were very counterintuitive. We have tried to create a car that is a little more regular this year.
But the work on handling is only one part of the picture: Every year presents the same bread and butter challenges to be competitive. You want to find more downforce. You want to make sure that while you’re finding that downforce, that the drag stays nice and low. You want to make sure that the engine has more power than the year before. You want to make sure that you have reinforced the reliability of the car rather than chipped away at it as you’re adding these extra bread and butter performance.

Question: Last year’s car had the longest wheelbase on the grid. Did you make any changes to it?

James Allison: The wheelbase is the same this year as it was last year. Whenever you’re deciding what you’re going to do from one year to the next, you try to solve things that you regard as weaknesses to your car and keep things that you regard as strengths. The wheelbase that we had last year was something that brought us advantage over the season, so we are retaining it as a strength for this year.

Question: What about the rake? Any changes there?

James Allison: We always try to optimise the suspension package and the aero package to work together. We aim to ensure that the peak of rear and front downforce are well organised to give you a nice, sweet-handling car over the wide range of speed and corners that you encounter during the season. The car moves a little bit in its rake compared to last year, but probably not enough for my Mum to notice it.

Question: You joined the team shortly before the start of the 2017 season. How do you feel now that you’ve been with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport for almost a year?

James Allison: While I was thrilled, excited and daunted to join this Championship-winning team in March last year and to ride out the roller-coaster of the season that followed, with each passing month it’s just more and more satisfying to feel part of this team. For anyone who likes being in this sport, one of the main reasons we like it is because we feel part of a team. And you can’t feel properly part of a team if you’ve joined halfway through the game. As each week has passed, I have felt more and more part of this great team and that has brought me immense satisfaction.

Q&A with Andy Cowell

Question: Andy, the team launched its new car today with a new power unit, the M09 EQ Power+. How much has changed compared to last year?

Andy Cowell: The amount of change on the power unit for this year is quite considerable and driven by a number of requirements. The biggest challenge we’ve got is lifting our durability limit with the challenge of racing just three engines per driver per championship and two ERS systems. That’s a 40 per cent increase in the life of the hardware this year compared with last. We focussed on trying to increase the life of the hardware without losing performance.

Question: What other areas of the power unit did the team in Brixworth work on?

Andy Cowell: We also wanted to change the packaging of the power unit for the benefit of overall car performance. We’ve been working very closely with our colleagues in Brackley, trying to understand the best overall integration in the chassis, the transmission and the aerodynamic surfaces. We’ve also been working on combustion efficiency and friction reduction in partnership with Petronas.

Question: Why was the reduction of power unit components introduced in the first place?

Andy Cowell: The reason we have dropped to three engines and two ERS modules was the request to try and reduce the PU cost for the customer teams as well as the total cost of what we’re doing. Right now, we’re seeing quite a significant development investment, but further down the line both the works and the customer teams will be better off. If an engine lasts 40 per cent longer, you don’t need to make as many units for the same amount of development running. This will have a positive impact on the performance development work we have to do at the factory, but it will also reduce the supply price to customers and the cost of us racing over 21 races of a Formula One Championship. So we will all benefit from it once it is implemented. It is a well-proven formula to reduce the costs. If we go back 14 years, we first introduced the idea of the V10s and then V8s having to last a whole grand prix weekend and we ultimately ended up with eight V8 engines per driver per Championship. All of that has helped to contain costs.

Question: Mercedes has had unparalleled success in the hybrid era. How does that affect the atmosphere in Brixworth?

Andy Cowell: We are trying to stay humble and just keep doing the fundamental work we have always done. There is no secret formula to what we do. It is plain, honest engineering work. If there’s an idea of how to reduce friction or improve combustion efficiency, we discuss it in our forum in a very forthright way. The sources of all ideas are human creativity, passion and enthusiasm. We have got thousands of ideas, and we use experience and calculations to try and filter it down to the ideas that you perceive to be winners. Then we embark on a development journey, using test rigs, development engines, single-cylinder research engines and so on to prove that theory. That’s our way of doing things, how we try to stay ahead. In a little over nine months, after the race in Abu Dhabi, we will know if we succeeded.

Question: The new engine and the new car both bear the EQ Power+ designation – a name that future Mercedes-AMG road cars with performance hybrids will share. How does Formula One technology influence road cars?

Andy Cowell: Formula One is about having this blend of technology development, great ingenuity and great human performance at the circuit. It’s driving progress, accelerating the future, and at the same time provides entertainment. That’s the awesome nature of F1. With the switch to hybrids in 2014, the FIA aligned our technology mission of our power unit with that of the automotive sector, but also other areas like transport and energy generation. Concerning the automotive sector, the most visible outcome so far is the Project ONE show car that we’re developing together with our colleagues at Mercedes-AMG in Affalterbach. It brings Formula One technology to the road. And there are a lot of other areas where the automotive industry can benefit from F1 being at the forefront of innovation – from lightweight construction to aerodynamics and machine learning to digital engineering to name just a few. While we all like the excitement that comes from the competition and entertainment element of Formula One, there really is a lot more to it as well.

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