Mercedes had to overcome engine-related problems this year which were provoked by the serious bouncing problems they encountered with their W13.
Their initial concern with their power unit regarded its performance within the car at the start of the season, when Mercedes were only an outside threat for podium finishes. The damaging effects of porpoising also became a worry, the team explained.
In a video published by Mercedes, Hywel Thomas, the managing director of its powertrain division, and team principal Toto Wolff discussed the impact of the engines on this year’s form.
“We came out at the beginning of the season with some wobbles on the power unit,” said Wolff. “We didn’t like certain aspects of the deployment or the drive-ability of the power unit. And whilst in the frozen environment, you and your team, you were able to really add on performance and cope with the difficult environment of a bouncing car that was breaking your engine.
“Still we were super-reliable and the engine was performing very well towards the middle of the season and the end.”
Formula 1’s engine regulations were frozen at the beginning of the year so Mercedes’ current power unit design will continue to be used by the team and its customers until 2026.
“At the beginning of the season, the two big things that we had was firstly the power was going to get frozen and it was going to be a hardware freeze,” added Thomas. “And that’s what we were going to be using for the next three years.
“So we had a really big development programme over the whole of last year and through that winter and just trying to make sure we landed that it was a real big effort, a really, really big effort.”
But that design had not taken into consideration the severe forces that would be applied due to porpoising – the aggressive bottoming out and bouncing most F1 cars suffered with this year.
“It was becoming very clear that the engines were taking a hell of a pounding,” Thomas explained. “The bottom of the engines.
“I think when [Wolff] came up to Brixworth last week and saw some of the some of the parts that were off the race engines, it’s quite a surprise to see exactly how hard they were being hit by the ground. And when you see Lewis [Hamilton] and George [Russell] looking a bit uncomfortable getting out of the cars, the PUs were doing much the same.”
Nonetheless Mercedes had strong engine reliability compared to their rivals over the season as a whole. Wolff credited the powertrain department for some of the lap time gains the team realised during the second half of the year.
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