Mercedes' Paddy Lowe admits that, despite being pleased with the way the team's new F1 car has come together, proof of its potential will only come when all eleven rivals are on track together.
The new F1 W05 is the most complex grand prix car yet produced by the Brackley team, and will be powered by the PU106A Hybrid Power Unit, the most complex power unit developed in the history of the famous Brixworth powerplant builder.
The car broke cover for the first time ahead of the opening day of pre-season testing, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pulling back the covers in the Jerez pit-lane before the Briton officially kick-started the 2014 season with a lap of the Spanish venue. With nose treatments being the talk of earlier launches, the W05 appears to have eschewed the 'proboscis' look favoured by the majority of its rivals, but aerodynamics are only part of the story as the sport heads into a dramatically-different technical era.
"For 2014, we have probably the greatest change in regulations in F1 history and the start of a new era for our sport," Mercedes' executive director Paddy Lowe explained, "From a technical, and also a racing, perspective, this is an incredibly exciting time for F1.
“We are introducing technologies that are new not just to racing but to the wider automotive world as well. The headline is that of improved efficiency, and the fact that we will be completing races with advanced Hybrid systems on just 100kg of fuel sends a great message about the technology that F1 can deliver. But it is also about the technology that Mercedes-Benz can develop compared with our competition, both for the chassis and the new power unit.”
Compared to 2013, the regulations impose a narrower front wing, the removal of the lower rear wing and a reduction in size of the upper wing, while a central exhaust exit negates the effect of 'exhaust blowing', which powerfully contributed to performance in the past three seasons.
Every component has been reviewed and redesigned to get as close as possible to the challenging overall minimum weight limit of 691kg. The result is an exceptionally tightly packaged vehicle which sets new standards in terms of overall integration.
“The whole team has done a fantastic job on the management of the project and its delivery,” Lowe continued, “We have hit our milestones and hit our targets but, as ever, we will only begin to understand how successful we have been once we begin running in anger on track. The new car is an elegant but aggressive design and, as is often the way, its beauty is much more than skin deep; the internal engineering of the car is extremely innovative and intelligent. Our team can be justifiably proud of its work so far - but none of us are under any illusions about the amount we still have to do before the first race in six weeks' time."
The internal combustion engine at the heart of the new power unit has been downsized to a 1.6-litre V6 configuration and limited to a maximum of 15,000rpm. To achieve high power delivery, and therefore efficiency, from the ICE, a pressure charging system has been introduced, in the form of a single stage turbocharger and compressor. The new Hybrid Energy Recovery System (ERS), which incorporates electric motors capable of recovering both kinetic and waste heat energy, presented a ten-fold greater challenge than its predecessor, KERS, which was pioneered by Mercedes-Benz in 2009. This advanced hybrid system is integral to car performance and marks a significant step forward in both system performance and durability. Each driver is permitted to use just five power units per season without penalty.
The lifeblood of the new power unit is the fluid technology delivered by Petronas. New tailor-made fuel and lubricants have been developed molecule-by-molecule to meet the challenges of the 2014 engine and drivetrain as, this year, fuel energy density has become one of the controlling performance parameters of the sport - improving efficiency is for the first time in F1 fully aligned with improving performance.
The power unit has also been designed for optimum installation in the F1 W05 chassis. This new car is the product of an aggressive development philosophy targeted at optimising the packaging of new on-car systems, such as the increased cooling demands of the engine, in order to give the team's aerodynamic group maximum freedom to respond to a significantly different regulatory framework.
"The 2014 regulations are a game changer for F1,” Andy Cowell, MD of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth, explained, “In the V8 era, the power potential of the normally aspirated engine was controlled by the flow of air into the engine - and therefore engine capacity and rpm. For 2014, that has been fundamentally turned on its head.
“The wider automotive industry is focused on the amount of fuel going into an engine, and the amount of CO2 it emits, and these are now our controlling parameters, with a maximum fuel flow rate and race fuel allowance. The fundamental question is now how can we best convert 100 kg of fuel energy into useful mechanical energy?
“This challenge has pushed us to develop cutting-edge new technologies, both within the internal combustion engine itself and in the ERS hybrid system, with the valuable support of our research and development colleagues in Stuttgart. These will enable us to develop over 30 per cent more power per unit of fuel than we did with the V8 engine.
“It has been an exciting and rewarding challenge so far, characterised by a strong competitive spirit and the common objective of building a winning Silver Arrow. But the hardest work is undoubtedly still to come. We will keep our feet on the ground and methodically work through our winter testing programme in order to arrive in Melbourne as well prepared as we possibly can be."