As we start to thaw from our forced summer break in Formula 1, AUTOSPORT put the question to Mercedes technical boss, Paddy Lowe, regarding the teams dominance and if this was really down to the new power unit regulations.
According to Lowe, it isn’t just the new hybrid systems and F1 has not become, effectively, a series driven by the best power unit saying:
“These cars are about system performance, not individual elements,” Lowe told AUTOSPORT.
“It’s about how you put it all together. It’s the power unit, the efficiency of the power unit, the aerodynamics, and the manner in which they’re all put together.
“It’s the collective efficiency of that package from a power, aero and suspension point of view, as well as a weight point of view.
“Our car is very quick. There are other cars running that power unit that aren’t as quick, so it’s a whole system.”
Fair enough, I say, but let’s think about the reality of a non-Mercedes works team who has not had the best aerodynamics and chassis for several years on the trot—namely, Williams F1.
Is Williams a decent litmus test as to how elemental the engine/power unit has become in 2014? Williams were nowhere near Ferrari and Red Bull or even Lotus in 2012 or 2013 and now they are running at the sharp end of the grid.
The team has made management changes and perhaps we could suggest that what we are seeing is a better chemistry of what Lowe suggests—Power, Aero, software etc. Somehow, I am not quite ready to afford Williams the position of making moves that have made them better than Red Bull or Ferrari at this point so that leaves the engine/power unit as the main source of their new-found success.
I would disagree with Lowe because the 2014 season is about having the best hybrid engine out of the blocks and the others are having to try and play catch up. Renault Sport F1 fired its head of state and made massive changes over the issue, Ferrari fired their engine man, Luca Marmorini, over the debacle and Cosworth vaporized at the end of 2013. You don’t see these kinds of aggressive moves if engines weren’t the main source of contention.
On the balance of it though, is this a bad thing? Engines/power units have always played a large role in the series and some could argue that the past several years with V8 engines saw no innovation with that formula.
The new engines are challenging, apparently road relevant and provide more torque than the chassis can handle. Aren’t those earmarks of a good formula?