Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Melbourne, 2014

Fear of rules change led Mercedes to run dominant 2014 engine in “idle mode”

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Mercedes’ former technical director has revealed the lengths the team went to disguise the scale of their superiority at the beginning of the V6 hybrid turbo engine era.

Paddy Lowe, who was Mercedes’ executive technical director when the current power units were introduced in 2014, explained why they did not use its maximum power mode for the majority of that season.

Lowe said the team realised how far ahead of the competition it was towards the end of pre-season testing in 2014. Its engine chief Andy Cowell was initially concerned about the performance and reliability of their new PU105B V6 hybrid turbo.

“I’ve seen Andy’s descriptions of it, much of which we didn’t really know at the time because they were busy with the work, not telling everyone what their problems were,” Lowe told the official F1 website. “It was a very, very tough period and they had absolutely no confidence.

“But I think as we got to the first test, certainly into the second test, it became more clear that some others were in desperate disarray, mentioning no names, and that we were in reasonably good shape.

“Then we came with another upgrade in the Bahrain test, which was literally a bolt-on extra that was suddenly another seven or eight tenths in horsepower. That was an enormous day. And we knew at that point that we were in some quite special territory.”

Despite the huge gain, Mercedes only beat Renault-powered rivals Red Bull to pole position for the first race of the year by three tenths of a second in a rain-hit session in Australia. Lowe said senior figures in the team, including Mercedes’ motorsport head Toto Wolff, had grown concerned that if they the full extent of their dominance was known, F1 might introduce rules changes to slow them down.

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“It was exciting but you had other stresses,” he said. “So imagine the scene: You’ve got Toto and the board of Daimler who are worried about the negative politics of looking too good.”

Before the season began F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone had vehemently criticised the new power unit regulations.

“You’ve got Bernie running around ‘saying this is all a nightmare, these engines are terrible’,” Lowe recalled. “Well, the thinking was if Mercedes had looked ridiculously good, then something would be done about it.”

Mercedes therefore decided to disguise their advantage in qualifying by reducing the power on both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s cars. Lowe said they did so not only in Q1 and Q2, where they could expect to easily out-pace their slowest rivals, but also in Q3, which typically set their final starting positions.

This led to “a lot of tension” on the pit wall, said Lowe. “In qualifying, we would never turn the engine up for Q1 and Q2. It was run in a sort of idle mode.”

The team would then consider whether they needed full power to take pole position, which Wolff often argued against, Lowe recalled.

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“The debate would then be how much to turn the engine up for Q3. I’d be getting it in the ear from Toto: ‘That’s too much, that’s too much’. And I’m thinking, ‘but if we don’t get pole, we’ll look like a right bunch of mugs’.

“So what number to pick that would do the job and knowing you didn’t want to err on the wrong way? So that was a big part of the discussion on Saturday afternoon. Nice chat to have.”

“Actually that went on quite a long time,” he added. “Through most of 2014, that engine was never on full power for qualifying.”

Mercedes took pole position at all bar one of the 19 races held that year. They only missed out in Austria, where the Mercedes-powered Williams drivers swept the front row after Hamilton and Rosberg made mistakes in Q3.

Lowe said the W05’s power unit was only one part of the reason for its dominance. “It was a good car as well,” he said.

“It wasn’t just the engine, we had terrific aerodynamics as well, better than anyone actually, which we used to track because we would engine-correct all of our data. And that car was better than any car, quite apart from the engine.

Mercedes took another 18 pole positions from 19 races in 2015. It took until the 13th race of that season, in Singapore, for Sebastian Vettel to give Ferrari the first pole position for a V6 hybrid turbo powered by anything other than a Mercedes. In 2016 Mercedes took 20 pole positions from 21 races.

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116 comments on “Fear of rules change led Mercedes to run dominant 2014 engine in “idle mode””

  1. This just confirms that the worst thing FIA did with hybrid engines was the instant development freeze with token system.

    1. Finally they admit it!

      I remember Bahrain 2014. Great battle for the lead between Lewis and Nico. But clearly the pit wall had forgotten to turn the engines down because not only were they fighting, they were pulling two seconds a lap from the opposition!

      Fair play to the tech teams but they’ve dominated the hybrid era while playing games with power and chassis performance. Even with their “difficult” cars they always found that little bit extra to win the titles by a margin that doesn’t upset the FIA too much.

      1. (Sorry I meant to post that as a comment on its own)

      2. @David If I recall correctly, both drivers used their engine modes in that race to fight each other without authority from the pitwall. I seem to remember them being stopped from doing that again unless instructed. It almost gave the game away it seems!

        1. @binaryslave

          you are incorrect, only Rosberg used prohibited engine modes in Bahrain.

          1. actually, it appears to be you who are incorrect. After Rosberg used strat-6, Hamilton’s engineer told Hamilton that they would mirror that strategy. You can check the radio communications logs, they’re somewhere on this very website.

    2. Wasn’t the token system abandoned before it would have started 2015?

      1. @hunocsi definitely not. It ran for three years and was only dropped for the 2017 season. It basically locked Mercedes advantage in for a few years.

        1. Really? I was sure of it, might need to get my memory checked…

    3. Does this also confirm that the customer teams might not have gotten actual works spec engines? Seems like its advantage could have been figured out that way as well, but in a more round about fashion.

      1. Well, the year Massa and Bottas were both grabbing poles in the Williams says maybe there were close. They probably would have been languishing with either a Renault or Ferrari engine in the back.

      2. You’re right Nick. Whilst the engines would have been the same specification, customer teams don’t seem to have access to all modes like the works Mercedes do. We have no real confirmation from any current customer teams, but Lotus in 2015 only had access to a higher mode once in an attempt for Grosjean to overtake Vettel at Spa.

        Reply moderated
      3. Does this also confirm that the customer teams might not have gotten actual works spec engines?

        Well I believe everyone got the same hardware, but up until 2017 (if I remember correctly), Mercedes and every works team could have an advanced software for their engine to access higher engine modes. Every other customer team got the standard software.
        In the 2015 Belgian GP, Grosjean (Lotus-Mercedes) was fighting Vettel (Ferrari) for 3rd. Then on the last laps, someone from the Mercedes’ crew advised the one in Lotus on how to access these higher engine modes. They did and Grosjean finished on the podium.

        1. With software being part of the engine, I think that it is fair to say that the works team don’t get the same engine if they don’t get the same software (modes).

      4. They did. Massa used close to the full power once in Monza after nagging his engineer for it.. The Williams Mclaren and Force India were horrible chassis looking back on it.

  2. I mean, hardly shocking news to anyone following the sport, their ability to suddenly find several tenths in qualifying every season other teams got closer post 2017 showed as much.

    It is what it is and I’m glad that time appears to be behind us. Qualifying is so much more fun now that it’s a fight to the tenths and even hundreds of seconds again.

    1. Just wait until Merc stop playing games this season. We saw at the end of the Imola GP that Lewis has massive performance at his disposal. Toto is playing with Christian before breaking his heart again…

      1. Did he really have ‘massive performance’? While he might have set the fastest lap, that owed a fair bit to getting DRS at the best time – it was why some fans started demanding that drivers should not be allowed to get the fastest lap bonus point if they had DRS at the time.

        1. I mean, obviously Lewis was a bit faster than anyone else on the grid, bar Max, and that much was obvious by how he cut through the field after his mistake and red flag.

          Anyone that believes Max, 20 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed driver, was driving full beans with an engine at full power, however, is probably deluding themselves.

          1. Yeah, Max was just driving to keep the gap stable at that point of the race, while saving the engine, gearbox etc, as you say @aiii. It certainly was not an indication that Lewis and / or the Mercedes was the fastest car on sunday in Imola.

    2. @aiii the fact that they didn’t even open up the engine in Q3, instead spending time how much HP would be “not too much” to run in Q3, that’s definitely news.
      I mean, I always assumed they held it back in Q1 and Q2 and opened it up in Q3. Now we know their lead was so incredibly big that even in Q3 they ran in some kind of a conservative mode.

  3. Though having a car much faster than the rest is not the most entertaining way to win a race – I can’t help but marvel at the engineering prowess Mercedes exhibited (and tried not to!). I’m hoping in a few years time we learn more about the Mercedes first wave Hybrid-era car, fingers crossed for a documentary piece or a TV special that reveals the full info on how devastatingly awesome the Mercedes package was.

    I’m glad that such a high level of dominance seems to have ended, but I also completely appreciate the work that went into gaining it and applaud the engineering staff who designed and developed the thing. It was an absolute beast!

    1. How refreshing, a reasoned, balanced, and sensible comment regarding Mercedes dominance of the hybrid era, rather than the usual WTF1 / Reddit style of criticism and complaint

      Thanks @geekzilla9000
      G

      Reply moderated
    2. Top comment right there, I will be waiting with baited breath for the same @geekzilla9000

    3. An absolute engineering masterpiece.
      Waiting for that documentary too.

    4. Dominic Smith
      29th April 2021, 22:07

      I for one dislike the artificial nature that the cars have been closed up this season. My preference is for the return of the engine modes and let the others catch up.

      Reply moderated
  4. So not using full power in QLF was another reason lap times were pathetically slow for F1’s standards in the early-hybrid era, albeit mostly still down to aero (on tracks such as Circuit de Catalunya), and an extent, the PUs being raw.

  5. Well everyone has closed up now, so lets hope we don’t have another major rule change soon and end up back in this same situation. :)

    1. Well the next big rule change is based around aero.

      The last time there was a whole new aero formula (2009) the field was very close. Hopefully it will be the same case again.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        28th April 2021, 11:42

        2017 was a pretty radical aero change but the top 3 remained the same so wouldn’t hold your breath!

        1. yes, big changes in 2017, Ferrari closed most of the gap and challenged for the title

      2. Yeah, 2009 was super interesting. The field was really mixed through, and the old Top 3 (McLaren, Ferrari, BMW-Sauber) stopped being Top 3. I would love to see something similar next year. Maybe seeing Alpine or McLaren or even Williams on the Top.

        Reply moderated
  6. And the name of the “desperate in disarray” team that Paddy did not want to mention is of course: Ferrari.
    The bit I like is Merc themselves feeling uneasy about such a huge gap between them and the rest, because then it is no longer competition but a steal. It gifts to whoever sits in that car assured wins and championships without number. Which is what we’ve had all these Lewis/Mercedes years.

    1. I’ve been reading here that it was all Hamilton’s superior talent…. Is that not correct after all?

      1. @S, one of the biggest myths of motor sports….

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          28th April 2021, 19:57

          I’d advise anyone throwing around opinions about Lewis to listen to Paddy Lowe on the latest F1 Beyond the Grid podcast:

          “His 9 podiums in his first 9 races was the best I think I’ve ever seen”

          and Mike Elliot, Merc’s new technical director who observed Lewis during testing at McLaren in 2006:

          “A test engineer said he was the fastest he’d ever seen”

          Pedro De La Rosa ” I saw his speed and knew eI didn’t have a chance for that seat”

          People think Lewis’s career started at Mercedes. It didn’t!

          15 out of 20 wins in GP3 to win the championship then GP2 champion then leading the F1 championship for the first half of 2007 where Ferrari were every bit a match and then some and his team mate was the reigning two times world champion, would have been the first rookie champion but for a stupid McLaren strategy leaving him out on down to the canvass tyres hoping for rain.

          The guy has always been a meteoric talent from carting to date. Just accept it.

          Is it any surprise the most talented driver since Schumacher replaced Schumi and has maintained his position in a team that could have signed literally anyone from 2014 to date but have never replaced Lewis? It’s also no coincidence he went straight into the top seat at McLaren instead of “doing time” (in other words getting up to speed) in a back of the grid team.

          He IS that good.

          1. Hamilton didn’t shine in the red bull era, he won some races and sometimes the mclaren was very competitive but unreliable\bad operationally, like in 2012, alonso did better every year there with often times a slower car.

            What you hamilton fans don’t seem to be able to accept is that one can like hamilton’s 2007 season (I did and think he’s the most deserving of that title out of the contenders) and still think he wouldn’t have achieved much without that super mercedes, he said so himself, that he’d still only have 1 title at mclaren, only a couple months ago or so.

      2. Nobody who recognises Hamiltons brilliance also doesn’t ignore how strong the car was from ’14 though ’16, the difference is, most of us normal people also recognise everything he’s achieved as a whole, through out his time in F1. Not just a select couple of seasons.

        Have a nice day.

        1. Hamilton is a God-tier driver who gets more out of the car than most other drivers can, the combination of one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time in one of the greatest cars of all time was pure magic.

      3. Really? I think the superiority of the Merc has been mentioned a few times over the last few years. You may have missed it?
        And I think you will find ‘but he needed the car to do it’ has been applied to just about every champion since the sports inception. Including Hamilton.

    2. And the name of the “desperate in disarray” team that Paddy did not want to mention is of course: Ferrari.

      Could also be Renault/Red Bull who were struggling to do more than a few laps at a time during the pre-season test’s that year.

      The Renault engine at that point was by far the worst on the grid as it not only wasn’t producing the performance but was also horribly unreliable. And from memory RBR had also got the cooling package wrong so were suffering more reliability issues than other Renault teams.

  7. When the rules are as prescriptive as they are, there’s little that anyone else can do to catch up.

    I wish F1 would stop specifying engines and let manufacturers design their own.
    Everyone is against spec chassis, but spec engines seem to be acceptable…

    1. If they are “spec engines“, why have there been / why are there so many different iterations and performance levels?

      G

      1. @unklegsif Linear (or near-linear) curve of performance.
        If you give 10 people the instructions of what they need to make, you’ll end up with 10 things that may look about the same, but they’ll be done with varying levels of skill and accuracy.
        Get them to do it 100 times, and they’ll all get better at it. Some may have done better at the beginning and got a head start on everyone else…

        1. But if you give a lot of technically-minded people the same problem, it stands to reason they’re going to come to the same conclusions, hence why Ferrari and Honda have gravitated towards the split-turbo system system..?

          1. @optimaximal
            Possibly. The caveat to your statement is “…if you give a lot of technically minded people the same problem” and constrain them in various ways including years of a token system, outlawing certain areas of development, and outlawing radical ideas, “it stands to reason they’re [likely] to come to [similar] conclusions.”

            And I think part of the reason that all engines tend to look the same a few years in is only partially because they are the “best” solutions. But also partially because one team tried it, it worked, so it’s easier to follow a known path than to keep spending time and money looking for another one.

            But I think part of the original point was that the extremely tight constraints force teams down very particular paths. It may be impossible, but it would be interesting to see what would happen if teams were given a box with constraints (like X HP, X torque, X RPMs) but how you get there is up to you. I know there are a lot of potential problems with that idea as well, but I would like to see some of the constraints be higher level than at the nut and bolt level.

    2. I would set a limit of 100hp and let team deasign whatever engine they want. V8 for low budget teams if they want. Electric for Honda if they want. Mercedes can keep their engine. Let the best man win. You can chuck out a thousand pages of rules. The FIA would monitor power output like they do now in Formula E. Penalties for going over 1000hp. very simple and you can explain it in 2 minutes.

      Imagine how cool it would be to watch teams changing batteries in pitstops or whatever strategies they would come up with. We would have innovation and probably at a lower cost. Plus you are guaranteed that everyone will have a competitive engine, whatever their budget.

      1. I meant 1000hp of course!!

      2. Setting a hp limit wouldn’t regulate the power as teams would be looking for more torque while maintaining the max hp. I would rather see fewer engine regs but just reduce the amount of fuel to keep a check on speeds. Surely this is the way things should be progressing

        Reply moderated
        1. That’s kinda what they did… reduce the max fuel allowed and max flow… trouble is, they had to introduce something else to make up the defecit… which, happened to fit with the manufactures desires for hybridisation as well

        2. Rob, its actually much easier to measure and regulate torque. No problem there.

      3. Totally agree on the concept. Have said so many times.
        Unfortunately it will never happen in F1. Too much social politics and manufacturer involvement in the regulations now.

  8. In reality it wasn’t that they were so good, it was the fact that the other two, particularly the one starting with R were so bad.

    At least the other team in disarray actually put some effort in to catch up.

    One can really only admire the skill and expertise that went into the Mercedes PU. I take my hat off to them for developing it in the first place and then continuing to maintain its advantage for as long as the did.

  9. The W05… what a car. This is arguably still the car that holds the highest pace advantage delta over the next fastest car over a season. Or does the Mp4-4 rival it?

    1. @krichelle Time delta is one thing, but race win percentage ultimately determines how dominant a car is, and in this area, MP4/4 is #1.

      1. Ouah race win percentage Mp4-4 definitely wins that, and the W07 is probably 2nd on that list. But, I am also interested in pace advantage delta over the next fastest car over a season. In hindsight, it looks like the W05 is the winner in this category, but I am not sure if it can be contested by other dominant cars.

    2. @krichelle the MP4-4 exhibited a higher pace advantage, at least in qualifying it did. It averaged a qualifying pace advantage of little over one second on Saturdays, the highlight being over 3 seconds faster at San Marino.
      The W05 had an average qualifying advantage of 0.6 seconds, twice having a pace advantage of more than one second with 2.1 seconds in Belgium being the highlight there.

      But given what we read in this very article one can of course question what the W05 could have been or done if it hadn’t been deliberately held back, since they were aiming to have “just enough, but not too much”. When we see what happened in Bahrain, where they opened up a gap of 24 seconds in 12 laps, while battling…

      But when talking about biggest pace advantage we probably need to go back to the early years of F1. In 1950 Alfa Romeo got pole and won every race, often with ridiculous margins – qualifying pace at some point being 10 seconds faster, and on most tracks lapping even their closest competitors.

      1. Holy…. you are right. I thought it could have been one of the famous dominant cars, but in fact 1950 Alfa Romeos were really that fast. It would be nice to see with accurate time measurements like today to get the exact times.

      2. Yes, at the time it was insane, I think the most dominant car ever was considered according to mathematical models the 1961 ferrari, back then you had 3 drivers per team and they were all pretty bad drivers and dominated, I think it said the dominance would’ve shown very clearly had there been top drivers there.

    3. Separate but related, was pole percentage.

      Three other cars tied with the 1988 MP4-4, the 1989 Mclaren and the 92 and 93 Williams (all were 15 of 16). The 2011 RBR and the 2014 and 2015 Mercs were a step up (18 of 19). And the 2016 Merc was 20 of 21.

      For win percentage the closest two both missed 2 races instead of the 1988 MP4-4’s 1. Those are indeed the 2016 Merc (19 of 21) and the 2002 Ferrari (15 of 17).

  10. None of this is enormously surprising, it was pretty clear the Mercedes was so far ahead of everyone else it was almost in a different category. The only thing this confirms is that every time we were told ‘the pack has closed up’ or ‘we are not fast’ and they pulled out a gap to nearly a second they knew exactly what they were doing. Although Lowe only talks about 2014 I got to wonder how long this practice went on for and how large the performance advantage they had truly was for them to only starting to feel pressure now, several years after.

    While I can appreciate what they did technologically, as a viewer and not a fan of Mercedes it was unbearably boring. No team should be allowed that level of extreme domination, nor for that long.

    1. You could probably tell the progress of the other manufacturers by where Williams finished

      1. good comment. i think i agree with this

  11. I am very glad to see an ex official from Mercedes saying that Mercedes dominance was due to their engine and not to Hamilton. At least the truth is revealed now…. Hamilton is excellent at warming tires, and yet an average racer who was very lucky to get a seat in the only good formula 1 since 2014.

    1. Yes, its odd that Hamilton was an exceptional talent for 20 odd years right from karting through to F1, and then became an average driver once he joined Mercedes. Makes you wonder why talent such as Lauda and Brawn chased him so hard and paid him the big bucks and why the likes of Dennis, Schumacher and others identified him at an early age as a future champion. But what do they know.

      1. So you keep saying.

        There have been many equally worthy drivers in F1 – and if it hadn’t been Hamilton in the Merc, it would have been someone else going for their umpteenth championship.

        But then you’d probably be swooning over them instead, I guess?

        1. Do you lack reading comprehension? The poster said average racer to which I responded. But thank you for making the obvious point if it wasn’t Hamilton it would be someone else. Very inciteful, and well done for that.

    2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      28th April 2021, 20:00

      An average racer described by Paddy Lowe in the latest Beyond The Grid podcast as being supremely talented in racecraft. Yeah, jog on!

      1. @davewillisporter
        I’m not a Hamilton hater, but surely there must be a better source than Paddy Lowe, the guy is tainted goods after his disgraceful behaviour at Williams.
        The guy always talks himself up when really he was just a part of successful teams and when Lowe was given responsibility for himself you saw what happens.

        Reply moderated
  12. Keith how did that work with Williams – who were quite quick then? I seem to remember they had lower spec engines in those days?

  13. Were the customer teams using Mercedes engines allowed to use full power?

    1. Up until 2016 (which was reiterated in 2018) most customer teams were given B-Spec engines or the previous years engines to give the works teams some wiggle room, Williams included. Williams was probably using full power, but their engine was still possibly down 100hp on the Mercedes teams engines.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if some manufacturers continue this (especially next year with a closer grid) but its getting harder to do so with too many punishments, so at the moment it may not be worth it. I can see though, Red Bull giving AlphaTauri B-Spec engines and Mercedes possibly giving McLaren B-Spec engines next year, but it’s pretty difficult to do so, so it should be unlikely to occur. Especially for Mercedes because McLaren won’t accept it so easily.

      Reply moderated
  14. Amazing achievement by Mercedes Ilmor.

    Another monumental failure by the FIA with regards to the technical regulations.

    Emphasizing once again how important the Technical Regs are, as their effect to the quality of racing, show, experience etc.
    And also how ironic and futile it is to be tweaking the format (sprint races) as long as the technical regs don’t do their work.

    Reply moderated
  15. When is that engine technician from MB that went to RB starting his job? :)

    Reply moderated
  16. Yet Ferrari had a sometimes 68HP advantage in 2019 and still couldn’t win the title. It takes more than a great engine to be successful

    1. Poor Ferrari never had a chance, even with cheating

    2. Yes, the 2019 ferrari, although some people here will tell you could’ve won the title, was hardly ever competitive, it was strong on the straights and sometimes in qualifying, it deserved to win more than the 3 races it won, possibly 5-6, but never a championship contender, never like 2017 and 2018, where they were competitive for most of the season.

  17. The 2014 Bahrain was probably the only time the car was on full beans.
    And it went 2 seconds faster than every other car (while having to battle the other car). Imagine if it didn’t have to battle the other car, it could have been another 0.5 seconds faster at least.

  18. Jonathan Edwards
    28th April 2021, 12:23

    I despise conspiracy theories, and I have absolutely zero evidence to support this. So that said, I am the only one who finds it odd that four engine manufacturers have worked with the same set of regulations over a period of many years, and the only way any of them could ever match or best the dominant manufacturer was to essentially circumvent the regulations? I’m aware of the token system and various regulatory impediments that were in place, but it still is peculiar how far ahead of the others Mercedes has been.

    1. Don’t read too much into it – I’d put a strong bet on the others not running their cars at 100% much either, with reliability and fuel economy major concerns for everyone.

      Having the ‘best’ aero and chassis gives a team a lot of options.

  19. Such a relief to learn that they were only dominant, when they could have been really dominant.

  20. Mercedes SANDBAGGING? Ehrmagehrd, what SHOCKING, BRAND NEW INFORMATION!!!

  21. This only exacerbates how disappointing McLaren were during this period (pre Honda).

    Whilst Williams were using this overpowered engine to some use to get podiums, etc.
    Where were McLaren? Languishing much farther back.

  22. This is hardly any news because Lewis termed the extra Boost “Party Mode”

    1. So party mode was just in reality normal mode

  23. I know that FIA closed the loophole against customer engine equality in 2018, but basically the spirit of the rule even before they closed the loophole is about giving customer the same everything as the manufacturer. Merc always denied that they have certain mode that only available for themselves. Obviously for someone that have been following the sport, that statement is probably not correct, but I think Merc have been skirting this issue by just saying they gave their customer the same thing (including software and modes) in all the interview that they have done. If this reveal is correct then Merc is basically lying to extend their advantage as long as possible until FIA finally act on it. I’m not saying Merc breaking any rules, but if someone revealed this fact on 2015, I’m pretty sure it would force FIA to act on it sooner.

    What customer team that doesn’t want the extra power? if Merc team want to run at a reduced power, does customer team also need to follow Merc? I actually don’t mind if they limited all Merc engine to run in “idle mode”, but what happen was more closer to customer team stuck in “idle mode” while Merc simply worrying how much they need to turn up their engine because they want to hide their engine superiority as much as possible.

    1. Matthew Carter confirmed on Missed Apex that the Mercedes engineers in customer garages would only unlock power with permission from someone at the works team. They were allowed to use extra power via a previously restricted engine mode in Belgium 2015 to allow Romain Grosjean to harass Sebastian Vettel and force the mistake that caused the tyre explosion…

    2. Mercedes could have told their customer teams that to run the engine in full power is very bad and should only be used sparingly and the customer’s engines are set to the same max power % as Mercedes for that session. But Mercedes has the knowledge that they can run this top % the whole weekend as it is only idling, while the customer is running lower engine modes because they control it up to the max set by Mercedes and they don’t want to damage their engines. So they could possibly have screwed over their customers if this is true.

    1. I thought of this immediately as well 😂😂

  24. Reminds me of the end of the incredibles with the really fast kid aiming for second in the race. Can’t let anyone know what you got.

    Reply moderated
    1. ^ see above :O)
      I, like lots of people I’m sure, suspected Mercedes were turning down their engine for a few years to avoid having their wings clipped by new (punitive) regulations. It also helped explain their reliability, not having to max out the engine like their rivals. The change only really came with Ferrari’s ‘rocket fuel’ engine when Mercedes were forced to move closer to their limit.

  25. I was very suspicious that this is exactly what was going on. Magic engines that can produce as much power as you want with the twist of the proverbial dial. How gullible we all are? Very dishonest from Wolf and Mercedes. This makes me look forward to the year when Mercedes is finally dethroned even more.

    1. How do we know they are still not doing it? I don’t know if I trust anyone profiting from F1 to be 100% honest.

      1. If they do have some ‘extra’ still, debatable, they may prefer to resolve their rear downforce issues than simply give themselves a power boost to compensate for this year’s rule changes and the higher impact on their high rake design. That way, they set themselves a design/engineering challenge and don’t risk compromising their reliability (which has a marketing impact too).

    2. @aliced Why blame them though? They didn’t bend the rules to achieve that advantage. The extent of their advantage meant they could focus on reliability and later on aero and resolving tyre issues that had persisted since the team’s return to F1 (via Brawn). Put simply, they blew every other team out of the water. I’m happy for it to change this year/next year. But don’t see any sense in blaming them for being better or for curbing their own advantage to avoid even bigger rule changes. After all, I’m sure everyone knew what they were doing anyhow.

  26. Every soul on this planet already knew this, except sky sports f1. Surely the fia knew this aswell yet they froze development. great job federation internationale du AMG.

    1. ok I think I liked “Ferrari International Assistance” more, was funnier and made more sense

    2. I didn’t know it, not for sure.

  27. Great to read all these comments. All confirming a very basic fact. If all the cars were the same Max would beat everybody. I am now confident that all the fans who follow F1 will have a different understanding of the oft repeated drivers thanking of “the team”. The team is far more important to a win than the driver.

    Reply moderated
  28. The GOAT crown dropped down from the knight’s head :)))

    1. Ahah, he never had it imo, he could be in the top 10 of all times, but no way I’d rank him ahead of schumacher, clark, fangio, ascari at least, and I’d say not even prost.

  29. I just find it disappointing that in a sporting environment being the absolute best is considered to be a bad thing and that a team actually had to consider hiding how good it was for fear of being penalised by the governing body.

    Imagine if a football team was told it had to field 1 less player because it was “too good” the federation would be a laughing stock.

    If striving to be the best is met with “well if you’re too good we’ll artificially penalise you” sport is truly doomed. What happened to telling competitors to improve their act instead?

    1. Well, that’s not a surprise, is it? Look at older dominance cases historically, like ferrari and red bull, it was a very clever decision to hold back for mercedes, unsportsmanlike ofc but not like I expect better from people like wolff.

  30. Great article. I guess we all know now that ‘party mode’ was when they ran the engine at its actual potential and the rest of the time they had it tuned down to give hope to it’s rivals. I don’t think I’ve ever come across any team that has to perform below it’s potential to put on a show of ‘competition’ in the sport.

    Hats off to the team. I reckon another Lewis will come along and break all records in due time, but I don’t know if there will be another Mercedes of 2014 to 2020

  31. It is now year 2021, Christian Horner was worrying the same thing, they were running standby mode in Verstappen’s car too much and gifted the pole position to Hamilton..

  32. Imagine having an engine so powerful you had to keep it turned down. It sheds a new light on all the titles Merc won. While you can argue it was incredible engineering. It was also very crafty to hide the advantage and lie to us saying they were worried about the competition year after year. We now know that was pure BS.

  33. This is the story that Lewis Hamilton hoped would never come out as it throws what has always looked like his super-human driving skill into doubt. It’s also a story that breaks the heart as it reveals that nobody else ever had a chance. Their ships were all sunk at the pier. I can’t understand how this could have been kept a secret for so long even though the suspicions were there. But the way that Lowe relates it you have to wonder if the Mercedes team were brilliant, or only very good and very lucky to have stumbled upon and followed the best engineering path since their results so often exceeded their expectations. In the end this is sad, and I hope it’s a one-off which never happens again.

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    1. A driver like Russell almost winning a race in a Merc with hardly any time to get used to this car.Isn’t that proof enough?

  34. If you’re so far ahead of the field it gives you enormous opportunities to put your resources elsewhere within the team. Start developing a car for the year ahead earlier, focus on quality control, team building, et cetera. Given the strict testing and development rules it’s no surprise that over the last years Mercedes has been virtually bullet proof on every terrain.

    The Race has a video titled “Top 10 Mercedes capitulations in F1’s hybrid era”. It’s ridiculous, as most so-called capitulations of Mercedes are ‘remember that one time Mercedes completely bottled it and still got second and third’. Gives a good idea of how strong the team is and has been.

  35. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
    29th April 2021, 13:34

    Seven years later, now we know.

    1. At the right timing as year 2021 will be the falls of Mercedes, rise of Red Bull domination era.

      1. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
        29th April 2021, 22:37

        We’ll see if that happens.

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