Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2018

Mercedes explains its ‘party mode’ engine performance settings

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes has shed new light on how it operates the power modes on its F1 engine following the intrigue surrounding its so-called “party mode” at last week’s Australian Grand Prix.

During a pre-race media event Lewis Hamilton referred to the team’s high performance engine setting as “party mode”. This prompted questions over whether Mercedes had added a new setting in addition to the previous modes which were already known about and how powerful their modes are.

In a briefing issued ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix the team revealed during a race weekend it uses “three basic modes” on its engines: “one for the majority of the free practice sessions, one for the majority of qualifying and one for the majority of the race.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2018
Hamilton did use ‘party mode’ in Q3, Wolff confirms
Mercedes said “all three can be altered with various sub-settings for different situations, which control whether electrical energy is being net deployed over a lap, recovered or used in a balanced manner (with energy deployment and recovery balancing each other out).”

“Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas switched their race mode to lower performance during the Australian GP when they were stuck in traffic and the turbulent air of the cars ahead, in order to cool the engines and prevent them from overheating,” it added. “A Safety Car presents a similar challenge – drivers want to conserve energy and the power unit, so the engine mode is set to reduce the duty and cool the hardware.”

Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff confirmed in Australia the high-performance qualifying mode was not used by its drivers until Q3. The team said its qualifying mode “is only required for a few laps each race weekend, and usage varies according to the competitive context – sometimes this qualifying mode will be used throughout qualifying, sometimes only in the final Q3 session.”

For 2018 power unit manufacturers are required to allow their customer teams to operate their engines in the same way as they do. Mercedes explained how this is managed.

“The available mileage is dictated by what is termed the ‘phase document’, which defines the limits to which the power unit may be used during each race weekend, and which is the same for the works cars and the Mercedes customer teams.

“PU modes are defined when the first set of hardware is tested in Brixworth and the mileage limit is determined by the success of the long-run programme. Some of these are circuit-specific, others are more general. Making the call on which mode to use can either be the driver’s decision, or through the advice of the engineering team – who will communicate over the radio which settings to adjust and which mode to switch to.”

The power unit settings alter how the engine operates and how it stores and deploys its electrical energy.

“The ICE performance is changed, for example, by varying the amount of fuel that is injected into the combustion chamber or by changing the timing of the ignition. For the hybrid side of the power unit, the modes will alter the interaction and scheduling of the electrical energy for both deployment of the 120kW (maximum) MGU-K and recovery of both the MGU-K and MGU-H.”

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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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77 comments on “Mercedes explains its ‘party mode’ engine performance settings”

  1. I have an idea: Let’s let fans vote on their favorite drivers. The three that get the most votes get a “fan boost” that we will call “Party Mode.”

    Er, wait…that’s actually a terrible gimmicky idea. Good thing nobody is doing it.

    Er, wait…someone is doing that?


    1. @ruz234014 It’ll never catch on…

      1. @keithcollantine Make an illegal referendum but only in the Netherlands.

        1. Pretty sure Rio Haryanto would still win that poll…

  2. And I thought Formula 1 was the ultimate motor sport. You know, the balls to the wall, all the horsepower kind of thing. I say this hybrid technology is ruining the racing with the various “modes” and setting. Just dump the batteries, give them 50 gallons of “pump” gas, and a simple engine formula and go for it. No 3 engines for the season, no restrictions on changing components between races, except same engine and components for race as qualifying. This way the lower horsepower teams can choose to run higher fuel loads and fuel flow for qualifying, but will have to pay during race in order to make it to the end without running out. Kind of forces a reversed grid. Also, the lower teams have a chance to develop during the season; isn’t development what Formula 1 is all about? Don’t the engine restrictions we have now make this more a “spec” series like Indycar?

    1. It’s all so simple when you don’t actually think things through.

      1. Clint C Ferreira
        4th April 2018, 3:25

        Well said

      2. MB (@muralibhats)
        5th April 2018, 11:58

        👍 awesome

    2. I say this hybrid technology is ruining the racing with the various “modes” and setting.

      It seems some people believe there were no ‘modes and settings’ before 2014.

      1. What!! They had various engine modes pre 2014? You lying.

        1. Sarcasm? or ignorance?

          1. Sarcasm on my part & ignorance towards those who seem to think engine modes are new to F1.

          2. Sarcasm.

  3. This all starts sounding strangely akin to the electronic driver aids banned in the 90’s… e.g. active suspension, abs, tc, etc. (and moveable aero before that). The same logic could apply to the power unit where the driver should be using the gas pedal, brake pedal and shift levers to control the power unit rather than handing that off to a computer.

    1. also a good point. there is a great skill in driving to conserve the car whilst still maintaining a high pace. if we’re talking about driver aids creeping back into the sport then this is something that could be addressed.

      and a return to manual gearboxes! *never gonna happen

    2. etc? Extraordinary Traction Control?

  4. So is it possible for parc ferme rule to enforce the same mode in qualy and race?

    1. even if that was the case, they could easily change the mode that they need for the race in the cool down lap, or change it in the formation lap

  5. Can we please go back to calling it qualifying mode. Lewis made a joke about ‘party mode’ and the media has been publishing article after article about it, and they know it’s the same qualifying mode they’ve been using since the introduction of the current power unit formula

    1. digitalrurouni
      3rd April 2018, 18:51


      Also the 3 engine limit thing has now made it all even worse. It will all depend now more so than ever on qualifying to determine where you finish in the race barring a weird VSC pit maneuver.

    2. @frazbox It’s all just politics anyway. Mercedes probably have an advantage there yes and whatever advantage other teams have, we know at least Red Bull will always keep complaining about it non-stop.

      It’s partly a lie too of course. Every engine manufacturer has some settings on their engines. Either to lower fuel use and coast a bit more or to be a bit more aggressive.

      At worst Renault are the ones who can eek the least extra power out compared to Mercedes and Ferrari, but there is no way they have nothing at all.

      Of course last weekend the change was that Hamilton nailed his second lap. So yes he went a lot faster when it mattered. Senna used to do this all the time and people were thrilled when he pulled out a 1.5 seconds gap on Prost. In those days they had special qualifying engines which only lasted a few laps.

      Especially for Vettel it was just him being a sore loser. Vettel didn’t improve from Q2 to Q3 when all the other guys did by quite a lot. That’s on Vettel and not on some “party mode”.

      Hamilton improved on his Q2 time by 9 tenths, Raikkonen 7 tenths, Ricciardo 7.5 tenths and Verstappen 5 tenths. So they either all had a “party mode” or is it the 2 tenths extra which Hamilton improved which people complain about?

      All this talk is just politics, negative spin and Vettel being a poor loser. Sad really.

      1. Vettel being a poor loser.

        Hardly ‘poor’, and hardly a ‘loser’ so far this year ;)

        1. You’re reading posts of @patrickl, they don’t come without the obligatory nonsense remark about Vettel.

          1. I’m sure Ferrari is lobbying this to the FIA.

        2. Well, just go look back to the sore loser he was after Q3 in that press conference.

      2. Vettel being a sore loser? I would love to know what you called Hamilton during 2013 when he said the Red Bull MUST have traction control.

        Also, Vettel didn’t complain in Australia, the other teams did, so I’d keep my runny little mouth in check by verifying facts if I were you.

        1. Also, Vettel didn’t complain in Australia

          Of course he did. During the press conference after qualifying.

      3. Vettel being a poor loser. Sad really.

        Sorry mate but Vettel actually said the difference in Q3 was attributed to Hamilton.

        Unfortunately that story never got posted on here or in the round up despite being quite a momentous show of sportsmanship by the German. ESPN had it if anyone wants to have a search.

        1. Sorry mate, but it was quite clear in the post quali interviews that Vettel felt Hamilton had just pressed a button.

          1. @patrickl that was quite obviously banter from both sides. Don’t be so sensationalist.

    3. Yes please! It grinds my soul when some little internal moniker sneaks out into the public and the media get a sniff, and run to the moon with it. It happens in the tech industry all the time. Definitely a pet-peeve of mine.

    4. Indeed, like the whole ‘size zero’ thing!

  6. I mean, it’s annoying, but Ferrari, Renault and Honda all have the same rules for engines so they could make one just as good too. Thing is, Mercedes have completely nailed it. Everyone has a ‘qualifying mode’, but theirs is best. I don’t like it but it’s testament to how good they’ve been.

    1. Exactly. What Mercedes has done is within the rules. They’ve just done a better job than everyone else, and for some reason, they feel like they owe everyone an explanation for it. I think Ferrari, Renault and Honda need to step up their game and ask their drivers to stop whining about it in press conferences.

      1. @todfod, this was what I was wondering about. Why on earth did Mercedes feel the need to explain their qualifying mode to everyone? Surely it was better for them that it was riling up the competition? Or is there something else in that area that they may not want scrutinising too closely?

        1. Exactly my thoughts. This is a little weird. Answering to rumours (and not to official questions, ’cause it ain’t such thing yet) is a good way to try to calm down the situation and evade a possible official investigation that might find something that it’s not supposed to be found.

        2. @shimks The way Vettel and Horner are making this a political thing trying to play the audience and FIA to get it either banned or diminished, it makes sense Mercedes tries to counter those underhanded attacks.

          Don’t think it was a good choice to do so, but perhaps they have good reason to do this. Perhaps FIA did threaten to move on the issue. The reason Horner keeps doing this “lying” is because it works. Well sometimes at least. In other cases he just looks like a complete fool (regarding the fuel sensor for instance).

          1. Perhaps, @patrickl, but I don’t see why Horner’s moaning would work in this instance seeing as every team must have a quali mode just as they have a fuel-saving mode.

  7. The available mileage is dictated by what is termed the ‘phase document’, which defines the limits to which the power unit may be used during each race weekend, and which is the same for the works cars and the Mercedes customer teams.

    I do wonder if this explanation was a partial response to Lance Stroll’s recent complaint about lack of suitable modes for racing at the Melbourne GP. He seemed to be suggesting he couldn’t access the right modes for the race, meaning he was easy pickings for the cars behind at the start of the race.

    1. @drycrust Absolutely. Does it make qualifying more boring, yes. Is it in any way unfair, no.

    2. @drycrust: Just what I thought. Looks like the goal for this unrequested explanation is to say “hey, we’re playing fair, we’re giving our customers the same engines we use”. Which is probably true, but skips the important issue: Are they also giving their customers the knowledge and tools required to use those engines to their full capacity? And it looks like the answer is a very big no.

  8. Mark McKinlay
    3rd April 2018, 19:20

    Loads of cars and bikes have different engine modes so what is the big deal?
    Mercedes is currently doing it better right now and red bull did it better before them for 4 years, maybe Ferrari will be next but it is racing. None of the factories want a different engine formula since hybrid is where tech is right now, its mostly red bull crying. I bet it would be all good though if they had a Mercedes engine!
    You maybe want to give a bit of praise to the Mercedes chassis and areo as well. Two other teams have the same engine and they are also rans so it isn’t just all about the engine.

  9. People are a bit short-sighted on this if they believe a single engine mode for everyone, would bring them closer to Mercedes.

    The fact that they can up the modes so much more and still have the most juice available for the race, indicates that they have by far the strongest and most reliable power train.

    And, what a single engine mode will mean, is running an “optimised average” engine mode for every manufacturer. Because Mercedes will not be using the qualifying mode any more, it would mean a bit more power for the new, single engine mode, hence they will be a little closer in qualifying, but a lot farther ahead in the race.

    This would be even more detrimental to the level of competitiveness during a race, than the current situation.

  10. I like the use of engine modes, I feel that it adds to the feeling of maximum performance on the very edge of tolerance. Pushing beyond the limits of the engine for a short period of time knowing that the longer it’s sustained, the greater the risk/reward is. Especially when it seems like the driver is seeing red and pushing a bit more than he could possibly sustain, he can make the car do the same.

  11. Andre Furtado
    3rd April 2018, 23:10

    So can anyone clarify this. Does every Mercedes engine customer have access to the same power boost?

    1. According to Mercedes, customers are treated the same (paragraph eight).

  12. Justin (@boombazookajd)
    3rd April 2018, 23:37

    The hardest part of the engine technology is that F1 does very little to share it with fans. It’s also never seen; teams go to great length to keep photos of the engine from getting out and it takes a nosy camera man to get them. Even then, we often don’t get those until mid-season.

    Every technical aspect of the engine I’ve learned from 3rd party sites, not F1 itself. It needs to do a better job at sharing the technical innovation and explaining the hybrid technology. The engine, unlike the aero, is completely hidden. The fans only hear it, and the sound is quite lackluster in comparison to the deafening V8’s. Personally, I prefer being able to hear the tires working and I enjoy the grunt and whistling of the turbos.

    The engines are complex and the engine modes make it more so; fans don’t know if a car is in a push mode or a recovery mode. Personally, I think the hybrids should stay but the sport will need to do a better job at explaining itself technically for folks, even petrol heads, to understand what’s going on. The Cold War style paranoia of the teams needs to end; technology needs to be brought to the fans rather than being something you find in a rumor column on third party sights, which event his site may miss.

  13. I’m assuming that the engineers at the customer teams have access to and are smart enough to exploit all of the “sub-settings” the same way the factory team can?

    1. When booting up the system hold A and B buttons. Special menu comes up where you need to write “oilburnaf” and you gain access to special qualifying mode.

      1. @socksolid Ferrari had that menu option yes, but they were forced to take it out at Baku 2017 when the FIA found out about their oil burning installation. So don’t worry, that is gone now.

        1. @patrickl @socksolid it’s just more buried. Take a close look at the drivers, when they accelerate, accelerate, brake, brake, steer left, right, left, right and then push neutral, radio buttons.

          1. up, down, left, right, A, B and then press start: cheats enabled

          2. @m-bagattini Heh, possibe. However, they were forced to take the extra oil tank out so it’s going to be harder to secretly burn extra oil with that additional reservoir missing.

  14. For me the most important thing is the question of whether Merc are supplying their customers with access to everything that the factory team gets from it’s engines. As far as I know we don’t tend to see FI or Williams make a huge leap in qualifying, so it’s hard to believe that get the same engine mode.

    1. Rules have been changed for this year to ensure that customer teams get all of the same software with full access & usage of all the engine modes the factory teams have.

      1. Yes, I know. This has been highly publicised.

        I am still suspicious that somehow the Merc factory team is getting more out of that engine than either Williams or FI are, F1 teams are practically designed around finding the loopholes and limits of the rules.

        1. Why on earth would Merc be doing that?

          It’s all fine and dandy to come up with ludicrous conspiracy theories, but there really is zero reason for Mercedes to do any of this.

          Mercedes would rather have Force India and Williams take away points from Ferrari and Red Bull as much as they can. Just like Haas did to Red Bull for Ferrari.

          1. @patrickl: It’s all fine and dandy to call conspiracy theories ludicrous, but it’s more practical to check the facts and acknowledge that the so called conspiracy theory has already been proven correct.

          2. @alonshow Lol, how does that prove anything?

            Seriously, if you don’t even understand what the conspiracy is, why even bother replying?

          3. @patrickl: If you don’t understand what that article proves, then looks like it might be you the one who doesn’t understand the situation. I will gladly explain it to you if you’re interested.

          4. @alonshow Read above WHAT THE CONSPIRACY IS. I’ll give you one hint, it’s NOT whether engine modes exist or not.

            That there are modes which are supposedly “secret” is pure speculation and does NOT say that it is also secret to others users of the engine.

            Is that easy enough to follow? Or do you have more useless banter?

          5. @patrickl: Since your last comment I’m almost sure you’re just trolling, but just to give you a fair (and last) chance to show you’re not: In the article I linked a Mercedes customer says exactly that: That the Mercedes engine had modes which were secret to them.

            Take your time to read that article, and if you feel like replying, make sure you don’t keep ignoring the facts. Otherwise I’ll assume you’re just a troll.

          6. @alonshow Post something from 2018? And not something from ancient history from the first year of these engines about a “secret” engine mode which they could simply select … ROFL

            Toto explained perfectly clear what the rules are on using engine modes. So yes they are not constantly allowed to push the engine to breakingpoint, because the engine will … break.

      2. So that is like giving a copy of Word to Stephen King and Nico Rosberg and expecting the same quality story to come out. Standard software, but different data and the question is, are engine customer teams allowed to use their own created data (maps) or can they only used those supplied by the maker? This does not appear to be covered and would put a huge restraint on a team as they might be able to exploit something missed by the makers. As the makers insist on their engineers being deployed in the customer teams, they have a massive advantage in being able to use anything discovered outside themselves while not allowing a similar map to their customers. And they can also wring their hands whilst proclaiming, correctly, that all their units use identical software….

        1. Exactly. The way the rule is written, it can be abused in so many ways it begs the question of whether it was actually meant to change anything or just to mislead people into believing it changes something.

    2. Its a bit obvious if you think about it……FI and Williams have those modes, but they use them in all qually sessions to keep up with the others. Merc obviously dont need to turn it up until Q3.
      FI have confirmed this. Williams have zero complaint.

  15. In other words they didn’t explain anything but told us things some of us already knew. They have engine settings in hybrid engine that allows them to control to when and where they harvest and then use that battery power. Who could have known!? (sarcasm). Everybody knows this.

    What about spraying oil through the valves and pistons to increase the knock limit of the engine (simplifying..) allow higher boost pressures and get more energy out when you burn fuel+oil instead of just oil? Where does this fuel come from and how does mercedes collect it inside the engine to be used during qualifying lap?

    1. Ferrari should be releasing something about their system any day now don’t get excited.

  16. I couldn´t believe that toto confirmed there is a “party mode” (even more so considering lewis said there isn´t one), but what´s next? ferrari doing the “bunga bunga mode”, renault doing the “super persuit mode” and honda doing the “seppuku-mode”??

    1. @zad2 Hamilton said he didn’t use a different mode than before and he didn’t. Of course they have a different mode for Q3. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that the other teams don’t have this either.

      Still, Hamilton explained that his last run he just got the tyres to work and made no mistakes. It wasn’t because he used an extra setting. Which he didn’t. He used the same setting in the runs before.

      Raikkonen went 7 tenths faster from Q2 and Hamilton 9 tenths. It’s not like that 2 tenths is such a massive difference anyway.

      1. @zad2 @patrickl it’s easier to think about a magic button than admit that Lewis made an astonishingly good lap in Q3. He’s always top-notch, but that lap was even better. Hope he’ll be dirtier in the future.

  17. Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff confirmed in Australia the high-performance qualifying mode was not used by its drivers until Q3

    So Hamilton lied when he said the Q3 time was all down to him.

    1. No he didn’t, in Mark Hughes’ column after qualifying, he pointed out that Mercedes has 2 qualifying mode, one for Q2 & Q3. The Q2 mode is worth about 0.4s & the Q3 0.2. Hamilton did not use the Q3 mode.

  18. I can’t believe that we are still talking about Hamilton’s lame joke about the Mercedes qualifying mode. Hamilton should have his lawyers copyright it as soon as possible, given the wide interest.

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