Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2018

Mercedes may delay engine upgrade again as it tries to understand Ferrari’s breakthrough

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes doesn’t fully understand how Ferrari has made its recent breakthrough with its Formula 1 power unit, team principal Toto Wolff has admitted.

The team is considering whether to delay the introduction of the next step in its power unit development ahead of the upcoming races at two highly power-sensitive tracks, Spa and Monza.

Asked if he thinks he understands what Ferrari has done to unlock more performance from its power unit, Wolff said: “No. We just see that there is much more performance over the last few races that has been increasing and increasing.

“It sounds like I am a broken record, reminds me of other individuals that have sung that over the last years. And I don’t want to go there at all. We just need to really push hard on the chassis side and on the engine side and find that additional performance. It’s there. It’s not trivial, on the contrary, it’s very complex. But it’s there.”

Mercedes delayed the introduction of its first power unit upgrade this year, which was scheduled for the Canadian Grand Prix and arrived two weeks later in France. The team has used its ‘phase 2.1’ power unit for the four races since then.

Teams usually aim to introduce new, upgraded power units when F1 resumes after the summer break at two of the fastest circuits on the calendar. Ferrari intends to give Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen its new power unit then having already run it last weekend in the cars of customer teams Haas and Sauber.

However Wolff said he may give Mercedes’s power unit team, led by Andy Cowell, more time to work on their next upgrade.

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“[Andy’s] a super-motivated guy. All his lieutenants and troops are. We see what can be achieved and what needs to be achieved.

“At the moment we are in an interesting phase on the third engine and we are trying to extrapolate how much performance gain we can find until Spa and Monza. Only once we know that number we will be able to decide whether we need to postpone or do something else.”

Asked whether Mercedes will be able to match Ferrari’s breakthrough, Wolff said “it’s very complex and not straightforward at all.”

“Because of the maturity of these regulations it’s very difficult to extract additional performance without harming reliability. Every experiment you do that potentially adds performance needs to be validated against reliability because a DNF is going to kill you in the championship much more than the ultimate, last tenth of performance.

“So it’s very complex to extract more performance in a level that we need to be sufficient. But it’s a challenging target.”

Ferrari is rumoured to be using a unique battery arrangement to recover and deploy energy more quickly than its rivals can. Wolff vowed the team will do everything to close the gap to their rivals.

“Andy Cowell and his troops, including the chassis integration team around John Owen, will leave no stone unturned in order to match it. [We’d] rather go up in flames than not match their performance.”

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36 comments on “Mercedes may delay engine upgrade again as it tries to understand Ferrari’s breakthrough”

  1. Toto this thing that you experience was happening for Ferrari the previous 3 years.
    Also Renault and Honda mostly are in the 4th year of not understanding what you and Ferrari do so if you wait for the upgrade i hope this will give some result or else i find it as the same excuse that Ferrari and all the others was using the previous years.

    I dont believe the gains for Ferrari are from Engine department but i believe are from Aero department. The car seem in high speed to have lower drag than the rest of the field(maybe not RB). Also Ferrari is better of following other cars closely (except they cannot do that often because this joke of tyres are destroyed).

    1. @bluechris You are entitled to ‘believe’ whatever you want to. Meanwhile Toto and the other teams have the data to ‘know’ the impact the latest Ferrari PU is having. Alongside the rather obvious statements in the last races from the Ferrari customer teams!

      1. And with this you believe Ferrari didnt had the data that was shown that MB had better engine? I dont get where is the difference and we need to hear this Toto guy crying…. he must better prepare the Wingman for the next races because they will be harder for them.

    2. I dont believe the gains for Ferrari are from Engine department but i believe are from Aero department.

      @bluechris

      Really? Do you believe that Haas and Sauber have also found ‘Aero’ gains by installing Ferrari’s latest power unit?

      1. You never heard of the new rocket exhaust-blown diffusers being installed as standard equipment on all Ferrari powered cars? ;)

  2. Didn’t he say just few weeks ago, that no mater what Ferrari did they are going to do their own thing.
    Sound’s to me they got some juicy information from FIA’s Ferrari battery inspections, and they are now trying to benefit from it.

    1. C’mon, really? Was de la Rosa involved too?

    2. Exactly what I was thinking.
      Charlie Whiting and other key FIA players had a meeting with Mercedes representatives at the team’s motorhome in Hockenheim….
      Quoting:
      Whiting said: “Again, those discussions are private. I don’t think I should be telling you …..
      I think Wolff doesn’t know yet if Mercedes can duplicate the Ferrari ERS setup in time for the Belgian GP.

  3. [We’d] rather go up in flames than not match their performance.

    Why would he adopt that approach? Ferrari as a team are perfectly capable of committing blunders, and Sebastian Vettel is more than capable at choking and throwing away the championship. I would think they should focus on always being in the hunt, but not pushing the limits to be on reliability. 24 points is a healthy cushion to adopt a slightly safer strategy than Ferrari. There will be failures and penalties towards the end of the season, might as well capitalise when Ferrari get grid drops. But going up in flames (Malaysia 2016 style) will hurt their chances a whole lot more.

    1. @todfod Exactly. Reaching the finish is more important now than ever.

      Last season Ferrari was on the back foot after they lost their oil burning system in Baku and then were further compromised by Vettel losing a lot of points with incidents. Perhaps their idea was also to go for more performance and risk lower reliability. Since after that crash Vettel started in Singapore, Ferrari suddenly had a string of reliability issues with their cars. Which in the end just made matters worse.

    2. @todfod
      I am really pessimistic about Mercedes’ chances of winning this year. Vettel won’t make any more mistakes. Vettel knows that if he wins the WDC with Ferrari he will prove everyone that Alonso is a much worse racer.
      Vettel will win simply because Ferrari is the fastest on any track in any conditions (Kimi would be on pole in Hungary if he had a clean lap in his last try).
      So Vettel won’t mess up. I don’t believe in that.

      1. Vettel knows that if he wins the WDC with Ferrari he will prove everyone that Alonso is a much worse racer

        In my opinion that´s not true, and i don´t think that is general impression either. ALO have demonstrated that is a match agains´t any driver even in lesser cars

      2. Vettel won’t make any more mistakes.

        @Sviat For me it’s the opposite. After France, and then Germany, I now believe there are more blunders to come. Unlike 2017, which he only blundered in Mexico and maybe US (with his really aggressive tyre-nursing), in this season he dropped the ball big-time in 3 auspicious occasions (Baku, Paul-Ricard and Hockenheim). Plus, everytime he gets in bad luck, Ham is there to capitalize, something he doesn’t do when it’s the opposite.

  4. Perhaps they are using super capacitors rather than batteries. I am not sure if the regulations permit this (it appears they do not specify how the energy store is made).

    1. I don’t believe that super capacitors could be used. I don’t think there is technology to allow any reasonable regulation of the discharge. Capacitors tend to “let it all go” at once.

      1. It’s an interesting point though, i was reading recently that super caps are better for regenerative breaking systems as they can charge faster and take more of the breaking energy, acting more like a buffer for the slower acting batteries. A combination of the two may well be interesting. The batteries could maybe take more from the more constant MGUH and the caps from the more peaky MGUK?
        Oh to have a car to play with all this stuff on :-) …

    2. Toto is making full out of you.
      He wants everybody to praise him for sudden victories. Then he, Romanian, will look stronger and LH better.
      His words are very nice stories for small kids and funny since whole Italy is aware of FIA favours to Merz.
      Bottas hit Vettel. No camera from Bottas car?
      Why toto? Why FIA? You are united, and a perfect match.
      Sleep well Toto or find another wife to make you happy and then you will not dream in red.

  5. When Ferrari merely compete with Mercedes people imply all kinds of underhanded activity, cheating, etc.

    When Mercedes dominate the sport from 2014-16 with the most dominant cars of all time and win the championship in 2017 with a dominant car all is above board apparently…

    1. Because:
      1) When people said Merc cheating because of oil burn, limited oil burn, and Ferrari hurt the most… funny… When Ferrari found some magic formula last year, suddenly back paddled after oil burn limits applied… Thats of course controversy… Ferrari Doesnt cheat…

      2) Battery pack is a single unit, for some reason Ferrari batteries work as two units… And there is a funny extra button on Vettel’s wheel, which gets used before corners… Noone knows what it is for as of yet…

      3) Ferrari may be used exhaust blown diffuser, or somethink similar way, which has been banned sometime ago…

      Yes teams works day and night to improve engines, and aeros, but they come in stages, not in a flip of a switch… When it happens overnight, naturally people scratch their heads, and try to figure it out…

      1. @mysticus

        1) you have to investigate better that clampdown on oil burn and see what other ramifications it had. Specially its timing

        2)There are plenty of buttons on the steering wheels plus the paddles behind it that people don’t know what it is, don’t you think if it was something illegal they would use one of the paddles? Or is it a case of hiding in plain sight kind of thing? Is it illegal for the batteries to be two units?

        3)Do you mean blown rear wing? Like Renaults uses? Blown gases to improve performance are not prohibited, the exhaust location is restricted to reduce said effects. It is illegal if they are using mapping to enhance the effect, which is very different.

        4)How do you know it came overnight? The Ferrari PU improved a lot in the last years couple of years with significant steps both in 17 and 18. They surely do testing before racing new parts. Maybe they have finally learned how to spend all that extra money wisely.

        5)It is funny that before the Merc domination there was a tyre test with incalculable effects, curiously that is rarely brought up.

        6) I love a good list

        7) Don’t make me defend Ferrari, feels weird, get better information before posting

        8) Thank you

        1. @johnmilk

          1) why timing? it is effects are more significant than its timing? dont you think? Ferrari performance nearly diminished over night, dont you think that is pretty significant?

          2) You have good questions which i was asking for same reasons…

          3) Exhaust blowing is a function of mapping! It is done when off throttle… rest you probably know… I was talking about the effect not exactly where it is blowing… Craig Scarborough has a video analysis of it and has questions about it…

          4) I meant literally! Like oil burn clampdown and sudden drop of Ferrari performance! You get the rest?

          5) Ferrari’s “secret’ 500km test with a 2011 car before the Spanish Grand Prix” never gets mentioned… and neither teams were aware of each had testing…

          6) So do I.

          7) Dont force me to make you defend Ferrari… it feels funny… And get better info yourself too

          8) You’re Very Welcome

          1. @mysticus

            1) the time where it was put forward…

            2) missed your tone there then

            3) it isn’t entirely a function of mapping, it’s the result of acceleration for example, so they can use the gases to improve aerodynamics, what they cannot do is map the engine to expel gases off throttle (if the button on the steering wheel is a throttle that would be very clever stuff, and wouldn’t be mapping, so it would be legal? Well doubt that is what it does) giving them extra performance in corners.

            5) have link? Not that I doubt you, but genuinely didn’t knew about it and want some more info if you have it

            6) it’s cool isn’t it?

            7) oh c’mon that’s my line

            8) cheers

          2. @johnmilk
            5)
            This one mentions 500km
            https://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2013/05/what-was-behind-mercedes-and-pirelli-secret-f1-tyre-test/

            This one does not mention 500km, but it does mention Ferrari did a secret test too, claim is that they did so along with supposed regulations. Problem was Merc used 2013 car vs Ferrari 2011 car. That is the main protest. Both required permission from FIA but wasnt too clear/transparent in either way to other teams… Ferrrari and Mercedes did secret test neither was aware of one another
            https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1/22984415

            This also mentions both Ferrari and Mercedes had tests…
            https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/motorsport/formulaone/mercedes/10093073/FIA-call-on-Ferrari-and-Mercedes-to-assist-in-tyre-test-inquiry.html

            if you search, you will find other articles mention it too. Problem either way who tested with which car…

    2. When Mercedes dominate the sport from 2014-16 with the most dominant cars of all time and win the championship in 2017 with a dominant car all is above board apparently

      1) Yeah no one ever complained about Merc’s car in the last 4 years
      2) Ferrari were just as good as Merc (if not better) in 2017, get over it already.

      1. Well Ferrari did lose some pace after their oil burning system was banned in Baku. Yet they should still have won Singapore, Malaysia and Japan on chassis/aero and then didn’t.

        1. Do not mix apple and oranges!
          Ferrari has never put their nose to Merz’s garage and searching for technical reasons for their last success with German and Brit.
          Because Ferrari is Ferrari and Merzedes is made in Germany.
          Why does he want to copy Ferrari?
          He sounds ill.
          He really cries as a child begging parents to buy him a toy and parents cannot admit that they do not have enough money.
          Now I pity him…
          Toto, this time is your end.
          You are helpless but human and defeat must be accepted. Maybe it will be raining! Who knows?

  6. Wulf wuf wuf wuf ! nonsense.I don’t trust him as far as i can throw him.

    1. Neither me. He succeded over night to compete with Ferrari. What is he mixing and acting???
      Pure Romanian ….mesmerism.

  7. Mercedes’s hysteria since it lost their dominance is ridiculous. When Ferrari is even a fraction quicker then it clearly has a faster car, when Mercedes is clearly in front then they are evenly-matched. And many insiders are buying and repeating Wolff word for word as if he knew everything perfectly.

    1. I call it determination to take that sweet 1st spot again.

    2. Ferrari’s oil burning engine mode proves they are not above twisting/breaking the rules to further their cause. Does anyone remember the attempt to ‘improve’ the wing mirrors when the halo was introduced?

      The new battery technology is an interesting idea, but its hard to imagine information on this not getting out, also Mercedes must surely be privy to the same technology.

      Ferrari could also have developed a new kind of gear box, although im’ sure Mercedes would be ‘listening’ for that.

      Then there’s the new floor Ferrari introduced. I wonder if there’s room in the rules to add a special reduce
      drag mode to the floor?

      Imagine tech to lower or raise floor according to how much down force they needed in the corners, and much you didn’t need on the strights. Imagine tech which still complied with the rules which says it must remain at a certain dept when measured, eg when stationary.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there were these dramatic other ways to interpret the rules. The FIA must know what it is they are doing.

  8. The technology to 2 stroke a 4 stroke engine has been available for a while!
    The current electronic engine management software is now advanced enough to do this on the fly!

    Basically Mercedes had it operational first. That was advantage to Mercedes.
    Ferrari’s version had a “suspicious” oil burning problem. Remember the Ferrari oil thing?
    Ferrari have now sussed out the oil problem & also increased their versions power output over Mercedes!

    Anyone think I’m tilting at windmills? Go ahead & see the system for yourselves please!
    Here in black & white.
    https://thekneeslider.com/ricardo-24sight-2-and-4-stroke-engine/
    https://www.theengineer.co.uk/issues/2-april-2004/the-2×4-engine-2/

    1. Fairly sure the regs require a four stroke…

  9. Maybe McLaren should hire Coughlan and Stepney.

    1. Whoops, not McLaren – I meant Mercedes——-although maybe right after all cos Alonso is back with them.

  10. Ok so Mercs and ferrari agree to bring updates to monza and then FIA bring in a new oil burn limit rule from monza funny Mercs bring their upgraded engine forward to Belgium. So who was burning more oil the rest of the season Mercs now 2018 level playing field….. Mercs have been cheating from day one with the fuel flow restrictions, the minute redbull opens them up they got a penalty in Australia this whole hybrid era is a joke weights of the cars have ballooned mercs helped right the engine rules etc. For me very simple set a fuel limit if you want to prove an environment environment (although personally the weight limit would be more important and would improve engine efficiency as the lighter the quicker better tyre were etc,) set a min weight limit, and let them build their own cars / engines using their own ideas! The current rules means no independent teams are allowed to win or even beat their Engine supplier team! Just look at how quick the Williams and force India card jump out of hammi and botface way! If they don’t theo engine is turned down aka Baku stroll final few corners 2017…

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