“I need more power” – quite an admission from a driver who has been at the wheel of Formula 1’s most complete package for the entirety of this era.
Since the dawn of the V6 hybrids in 2014, Mercedes has blown away the opposition and claimed four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Last season, Ferrari mounted the biggest challenge to the Silver Arrows’ supremacy, only to run out of steam at the end of the season.
However, this year looks set to be different and after the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes has found itself in rather uncharted territory.
Max Verstappen’s breakthrough victory at the Spanish Grand Prix took the motorsport world by surprise. His already lofty stock has risen considerably in the past two weeks. The teenager’s new team Red Bull are certainly returning to form, out-qualifying both Ferrari’s in Spain and are preparing to fit an upgraded Renault powerunit into the RB12, which promises to deliver around half a second per lap of performance.
Mercedes power was the recipe of choice in 2014 – the guys and girls at Brixworth had clearly managed to provide the best package on the grid and in what has become an engine-formula, this proved to be a vital asset. Coupled with an excellent chassis, the W05 was the class of the field. While analysts will be bold to bet against more Mercedes domination this season, the head of the outfit’s engine department Andy Cowell, has acknowledged that Ferrari, Renault and the unknown quantity of Honda are likely to mount a challenge over the course of this year.
Following the discovery of the homologation loophole which brought a sigh of relief to Renault and Ferrari, a debate has been rumbling on in regards to how the regulation, (or lack of it), will apply to Honda, who are introducing their first generation powerunit this season. Following an appeal to the FIA, it appears that Honda will in fact be granted permission to develop their unit throughout the 2015 campaign, but the scale of the on-going project will essentially be defined by their rivals.
Engine politics has been a key feature which has characterised the winter so far and the discussions are continuing to rumble on. The loophole uncovered in the sport’s Technical Regulations will allow Renault, Ferrari and front running manufacturer Mercedes, to develop their powertrain’s throughout the 2015 season, on account of the fact that no official date for homologation is disclosed. However, Honda are currently appealing the ruling that they are excluded from this luxury, on the basis that they are fielding a first-generation unit – it is a fast developing storyline.