Mercedes expects “pleasant surprise” on reliability

2014 Australian Grand Prix

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Mercedes believe the first race of the season will not see as many retirements as first expected.

There were dire forecasts that few, if any cars might finish the first race of the season after some teams achieved little or no running in the first days of testing the new 2014 cars.

But Mercedes’ high performance powertrains director Andy Cowell said: “I think we will all be pleasantly surprised.”

“Formula One is full of very determined individuals. From the engineers to those manufacturing parts and the race team itself, everyone is hugely driven to succeed.

“The predictions going into winter testing were that it was going to be a complete disaster, with cars not even capable of lapping a circuit.

“When you look at the kilometres that have been achieved it is pretty impressive, so I think that concern has subsided.”

However he added Mercedes had only discovered some faults when they reached high mileages with their engines – something their rivals, particularly Renault, have managed little of.

“We saw some Power Unit related problems arise over the course of each test – especially over the last few days when pushing towards higher mileage – which topped up our job list,” said Cowell. “This was actually encouraging, as it proved that we have good correlation between our long runs both on the dyno and on track.”

He added the team will be conscious of not sacrificing reliability for performance: “We have to make sure all aspects of the system are set up in their sweet spot, but also that the sweet spot doesn’t aggravate a reliability issue.”

“Throughout the season we can only use five power units per driver, including the hybrid systems, or face severe grid penalties. The challenge now is to gather all the data we have from testing and conduct statistical analysis to ensure that we have a high probability of success at 19 grands prix.”

2014 Australian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Mercedes expects “pleasant surprise” on reliability”

  1. All this hype on Mercedes engines is worrying. This season could be a real farce if we only have Mercedes powered cars fighting for wins and the podium.

    1. @todfod – How do you work that one out? I say having four teams fighting it out up front will be a grand improvement on one team dominating…

      1. You assume that any Mercedes powered team will be able to challenge the works Mercedes team. I’m highly doubtful of this. I just hope Rosberg can challenge Hamilton throughout the season.

        1. No, that’s not what I meant. I was just responding to how todfod had written his post, claiming that just having Mercedes powered cars fighting for wins and podiums would be a farce.

          I was pointing out that four teams have Mercedes engines, and therefore having four teams fighting would be better than having just one.

      2. @bradley13
        That’s no what’s is going to happen though.
        If the Mercedes engine is indeed as far ahead as it looks, then it will only stop Red Bull and Ferrari from joining the battle.
        It won’t automatically mean that any Mercedes powered team will have a fighting chance.

    2. I wouldn’t call it a farce, it’s happened before. There would still be 8 cars in the running, at least 6 of which seem to have pretty competitive cars (Force India is a question mark). I dont think Ferrari are _too_ far behind in any case, they seem to be struggling with power delivery as much as anything, which is probably fixable with software tweaks.

    3. Yes perhaps but this talk about reliability has evolved in real rime, from day to day some people get more optimistic and then pessimist after some more thought. I first aimed at 15 finishers then I was waiting for 10 then I thought only the Mercedes would finish but after the gearbox issues I think only 6 will finish all in all people are now starting to predict most of the field ending but on snail’s pace. Either way it Melbourne is always a one off.

  2. Haha, it must be disheartening for Renault that even when the Merc engines break down they take it as a positive sign :P

  3. My final prediction before 2014: Mercedes will truly make Ferrari and especially Renault look like an absolute laughing stock.

    1. @kingshark

      Mercedes will truly make Ferrari and especially Renault look like an absolute laughing stock.
      ReplyReport user

      Maybe Renault but not Ferrari. I have blind faith that they have built an excellent PU. Especially if their off throttle fuel saving is true! They might have an edge in cooling and consumption! **fingers crossed**

      1. @karter22

        Especially if their off throttle fuel saving is true!

        I know. I too was quite surprised when I read that. Ferrari actually came up with something innovative!

      2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
        12th March 2014, 23:18

        I heard that Ferrari engines were a bit more thirsty than the Renault and Mercedes engines.

      3. My Volvo doesn’t burn fuel off-throttle… why should any F1 engine?

  4. As good as it looks for Mercedes, I do think Cowell is highlighting an interesting point. There’s no guarantee that they are reliable vs. the competition once their PU has high mileage on it. That all remains to be seen. Will Mercedes be quick and reliable in the short term, but find themselves risking penalties for too many engines later in the season? Is Ferrari a little slower but destined to not have any penalties related to too many components needed per driver? We’ll only know when we know.

  5. I had forgotten about five power units per driver for the season, that’s going to drop to 4 pretty sharpish on Sunday for a lot of drivers I imagine!

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      12th March 2014, 23:25

      Is ironic isn’t it? The teams have to spend copious amounts of money to build these new engines, but the FIA restrict them to only 5 units for the season as a measure of cost saving.

      If any of the cars look to be in even the slightest trouble I think we’ll most likely see teams telling drivers to park the car up long before any serious damage is done to the engine to save them for future races.

      Honestly, I think they should’ve kept the ‘8 Engine’ policy. Because of how radical these changes are, and how fragile the engines have proved to be, only having 5 engines for a season just doesn’t seem like enough.

      1. The individual components of the power unit can be exchanged to some extent without replacing the engine. I think the number of each type of ‘major’ component they can use throughout the year was published somewhere in a previous article. So if it is ERS components that fail more regularly than the actual engine units themselves then i think the 5 engines per season might not be the limiting factor. The different PU manufacturers might also have different weak links in terms of reliability. We will have to see how it plays out over the season.

  6. Mark in Florida
    13th March 2014, 2:06

    I believe that we will see many engine failures at first until they get a grip on the situation. If you lean a forced induction engine out too much it will blow torch the pistons. So if they are trying to stretch the miles per gallon to finish without turning the boost down boom! I’m sure things will sort out before long. Can’t wait to get the season underway.

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