Mercedes tackles MGU-K problems and adds “completely new innovations” on 2021 power unit

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes has made further changes to the design of its MGU-K after experiencing problems with its kinetic energy recovery system last year.

The part was completely redesigned for the 2020 season. Managing director of Mercedes High Performance Powertrains Hywel Thomas said last year’s version brought “a solid step forwards in performance” but “was a design that turned out to be difficult to manufacture and assemble consistently”.

The team and its customers experienced some power unit problems related to the MGU-K late in 2020. Sergio Perez suffered two power unit-related retirements in the final three rounds in his Racing Point-Mercedes.

“We had lots of examples where the MGU-K ran a full cycle and did exactly what we wanted it to do, but we also had some cases of mid-life failures,” said Thomas.

This has prompted some fresh thinking for the new season. “For 2021, we’ve gone back, looked at that design and built an understanding of where the failures have come from,” he said. “We have changed it for this year, to allow for a more consistent manufacturing route which should help to improve the reliability of the MGU-K.”

Mercedes W12 rendering, 2021
First pictures: Mercedes reveals its new F1 car for 2021
Reliability is one of three areas Mercedes has sought to improve on its M12 power unit. “First, we’ve continued the development of the technology in the power unit,” Thomas explained. “That’s a continuous process, and we feel like we’ve been able to take a step forward on that front again this year.

“The second area is reliability. We discovered some design issues last year, so we’ve been looking at those and introduced some changes to address them.

“We’ve also got some completely new innovations that will be in the racing power unit for the first time. That was particularly challenging because last season finished late, so the winter period has been shorter than normal and has given us less time to prepare, which put extra strain on the business.”

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Reducing the heat produced by the power unit, which allows the chassis team to create more aerodynamically efficient packaging for the car, was another objective for the design team, said Thomas.

“We’ve continued our quest for better thermal efficiency in the internal combustion engine,” he said. “Most of the developments can be found in the core of the power unit, with a desire for maximum output from the combustion process.

“Hand in hand with that, we’ve introduced changes to the turbocharger to minimise the impact on the heat rejection. Those are probably the most striking when it comes to crank power and the performance of the power unit.”

Other changes for reliability reasons include a change of material in part of the power unit’s structure. “In 2020 we used an aluminium structure which wasn’t as reliable as intended so we’ve introduced a new alloy for the engine block.”

The 2021 F1 calendar features a record-breaking 23 races, which also had a bearing on Mercedes’ power unit plans.

“We’ve also made some adjustments to the Energy Recovery System, to make it more resilient,” said Thomas. “We’ve got a big challenge in 2021 with 23 races on the calendar, we will need to ensure that the reliability of the power unit is spot on. We’ve worked hard on that area and hopefully it’s paid off.”

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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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  • 34 comments on “Mercedes tackles MGU-K problems and adds “completely new innovations” on 2021 power unit”

    1. So after the big step in performance last year, they have tweaked the things around a bit to get is back to bullet proof reliability again now and added some minor improvements and helped the packaging.

      I am sure all other engine manufacturers will be looking at themselves with a disappointed look on their faces. Some might be confident that they took a good step forward, but Mercedes just keeps notching it up bit by bit.

      1. They’ve been a class of their own when it comes to power units. If we take away the Ferrari’s cheat engine years, which was probably 2017/18 & 2019, there wasn’t a single power unit on the grid even close to their performance.

        If they’ve worked on the power unit as much as Allison claims, every PU manufacturer on the grid must be biting their nails. Red Bull must be even more distraught as Honda’s innovations have failed more often than not… and Mercedes’ have succeeded more often than not. If Mercedes has locked in a gem before the engine freeze, this could be a really scary time for Ferrari, Red Bull and Alpine.

        1. My thoughts exactly. There will be no engine equality. And in the 2022 regulations there is much less room to compensate for it aerodynamically. This means that Mercedes dominance is ensured for the next few years at least.

          1. Interesting given that as reported in this site as the most reliable Power Unit in 2020, Honda.
            Maybe it should be reworded that Mercedes is striving to be the best performing PU and as reliable as Honda.
            Regardless, 23 races and a bunch of sprints will generate loads of intrigue. Can’t wait.

      2. It is odd that the McLaren does not also have the bulge given that it seems to be an integral part of the new engine.

        1. It didn’t seem like Mclaren had packaged the engine cover as tightly. They probably left a little more breathing space up until they figure out cooling requirements. That’s my guess at least.. we’ll only know once they all show up to pre season tests.

          1. True, that is certainly a possibility.

        2. McLaren did mentioned a bulge in the engine cove to accommodate the merc PU.

    2. i hope the engine blows up every race, im tired of mercedes

      1. Tracing Point
        2nd March 2021, 12:58

        I want to go back to the good old days of Malaysia 2016. good times…

      2. Well, there’s hope, and then there’s believing that firing a few rifle shots at a hurricane can divert it.

        1. @david-br or nuclear weapons as a previous head of state once suggested.

    3. “We’ve continued our quest for better thermal efficiency in the internal combustion engine,” he said. “Most of the developments can be found in the core of the power unit, with a desire for maximum output from the combustion process.
      Hand in hand with that, we’ve introduced changes to the turbocharger to minimise the impact on the heat rejection. Those are probably the most striking when it comes to crank power and the performance of the power unit.”

      That’s a bit scary for the competition if they achieved even better combustion efficiency, turbo efficiency (less heat rejection), which then results in less heavy cooling and a tighter package.

      1. @coldfly

        That’s a bit scary for the competition if they achieved even better combustion efficiency, turbo efficiency (less heat rejection), which then results in less heavy cooling and a tighter package.

        After looking at their car at the live launch event today… I feel the only thing missing at the end of the video was a mic drop by either Allison or Wolff before they walked away.

        The engine is going to be mega… and their floor.. which Allison said was hidden intentionally, is going to a seal the deal once we get to our first pre season test.

        1. @todfod 😂 mic drop. Split a gut at that image. That was great.

          1. Yeah, the whole thing would have perfectly set the stage for that one @todfod, @robbie, @coldfly.

            I do hope Honda really did make that step forward (who knows, probably not even Honda itself can, given their record so far), but I have already settled for enjoying the fight for 3rd in the championship and hopefully a bit more races where the RB team can at least push Mercedes into having to use strategy to keep both cars ahead.

      2. That was where Honda also was threading while there Turbo was designed by there Airplane division that part was very good. The ICE and Electric component needed a lot of love.
        Last year the MGU-K of Mercedes engine cars were less then relieable for more power. We will see if the power is a bit lower then last year,

        1. @macleod the comments about Honda’s aeronautical division supposedly getting involved with the design of the turbochargers have come under question. There is a suggestion that the actual involvement was rather less extensive than suggested in the press, and that the “involvement” was more about drumming up publicity for Honda’s jet aircraft due to sales undershooting their original aims and the programme losing money (being launched at a time when the business jet market was expanding, but then coming undone as, after the 2008 financial crisis, the expansion of the business jet market they’d banked on didn’t occur).

          1. There had been a report early in 2019 (not sure where) that mentioned the Honda Aero Div. had provided assistance in vibration analysis and mitigation. Something that had been a major issue during the McLaren period.
            Something must have worked as they were better in 2019 and more so last season. Here’s hoping that this continues.

      3. Well at least this year there’s at least one & possibly two other teams that can take advantage of that PU as well.

        It just seems to me that the other PU suppliers are either being extremely modest, or they’re just plain incompetent if they’ve not been able to develop something comparable in the 7 years since these PU’s were introduced.

        It’s frustrating that not one of the other teams and or PU suppliers seem to have the skills to compete with Mercedes on pretty much any level. Even when the 2017 aero regulations were changed in a way that should have suited RBR, they failed to make any real inroads.

        I have nothing but admiration for the Mercedes team and I’m just plain disappointed by the rest. Let’s hope that at least 1 team actually applies itself to doing a proper job in 2022 or we’re just going to see the same.

        1. It is not skills, it is skills bought with money. Mercedes have bought all the best people and have at least 100 MILLION dollars more than any other team. What that have achieved in F1 does not impress me at all. They are nothing more than bullies and sneaky.

          1. Awww is someone a bit sad 😢

          2. If we’re basing performance on budgets, then Ferrari and Red Bull should be a lot closer to Mercedes than they have been. Lol

          3. @aliced

            Ferrari still spends more than Mercedes on its F1 program.. Although you wouldn’t have guessed that looking at where they finished in 2020. Guess money can’t buy championships for everyone

    4. Hand Mercedes their trophy already, why even bother :-s and while at it, just as well for Hamilton. With these mercs anybody can take that WC title, having seen Russell taking it out for some laps :p

      Soooo, what do you all think… who will be 2nd, 3rd and 4th this year, and what team will perform the best after mercs?

    5. They always share some technical tid bits which is great on the other hand even though they complained about the regs and the pu modes changes, merc got quicker. Honda never pointed the finger at anyone until pointing the finger at merc last season. After an optimistic end of pre season press conference, Honda questioned mercs performance after that ferrari tpo questioned their performance, something to do with what they were seeing in the corners. No fuss no drama no press coverage.

    6. How does “better thermal efficiency in the internal combustion engine” and the turbocharger changes really help with closer packaging? One would think it’s the exhausts that’s the difficult bit to package tightly? Maybe it’s the new metal alloy that’s the revolution here, increasing the heat tolerance overall? We know Mercedes had some heat issues last year (and before that too).

      1. Its seems to me there are tremendous implications in what Mercedes have said. The most inefficient aspect of areodynamics usually involve ducting air to cool the engine. Creating cavities or bulges around the eng, into radiators etc. If the engine is producing less heat and is able to last the entire race with no compromises to performance, then they’ll be able to create a closer fitting package. cable management in and around a hot engine will also improve.

        How they’ve achieved this remains to be told, but it all bodes will for Mercedes and the teams they support. Im sure those teams are already looking forward to next season’s handme downs. Who needs DAS…

        That said, we have the new regs to look forward to for the 2022 season. Who knows what will happen then.

        1. “Im sure those teams are already looking forward to next season’s handme downs.”
          ….ummmmmmm, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t engine manufacturers HAVE to give teams they support the SAME PU’s etc. as they have.
          One can only imagine Dan’s grin at this news!!!

          Note the carry over of the most important item on the car – the red 3 pointed star – R.I.P. Niki.

    7. The gnashing of teeth up and down the paddock just went into overdrive. If nothing else the Mercedes gang really know how psyche out the competition.

    8. This is Merceds feeding their competition with a line of development to pursue at great expense.
      If DAS hadn’t been outlawed the other teams would have been diverting resources into developing their own.

      Well Mercedes has found another direction for their resources, and now to be greedy, they’ve just put it out
      there for the other rival engine manufactures to try and play catch up. How thoughtful of them.

    9. @cdfemke if any1 can win in the Mercedes why has only 1 driver won most of their championships. You still have to beat your team mate in the same machinary.

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