Analysis: Has Mercedes broken the 1000bhp barrier?
Formula 1's turbo hybrid engines have been on the receiving end of criticism since they arrived back in 2014 over their lack of sound and fuel efficiency characteristics.
But one area where they do not fall short is in the power stakes, with them pumping out much more horsepower than the V8 power units that they replaced.
They easily charged past the 900bhp figure, and there are now indications that the benchmark engine produced by Mercedes is giving out as much as 1000bhp during qualifying laps.
Of course, the figure will not be confirmed, with the technicians led by Andy Cowell at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains obviously keeping details about its state-of-the-art engine a secret.
However, sources with good knowledge of the situation suggest that the latest specification Mercedes engine that was introduced at the Belgian Grand Prix is producing 980bhp.
But a manufacturer not currently involved in F1 conducted a data-gathering exercise at the Singapore Grand Prix to check on the progress on the current power units.
Using sound analysis to compare the performance of the engines – allied to calculations of the electrical energy boost – an interesting aspect came to light.
The results of the sound testing, which have been supplied to Motorsport.com, suggest that at peak power the Mercedes is able to reach an impressive peak of 1000bhp
This is during the final qualifying efforts, when its drivers are able to make use of a special setting to get a power boost for 50 seconds to aid their qualifying performances.
The magic button
Estimates suggest that this 'magic button' boost for qualifying – which changes the mapping of the engine – is worth around 80bhp.
We know from the Belgian Grand Prix that Mercedes customer Williams was left three-tenths of a second down when neither Felipe Massa nor Valtteri Bottas could use this qualifying setting on Saturday afternoon.
Even using the 980bhp figure, which includes the 160bhp that comes from energy recovery from the MGU-H and MGU-K, it means the internal combustion engine is producing around 820 bhp.
That in itself is hugely impressive considering it is just a 1.6-litre engine and has strict limits in terms of a fuel flow rate of 100 kg per hour at 10,500rpm, plus a number of exotic materials that could help improve performance are banned.
If you take away the 80bhp boost that Mercedes is estimated to have for qualifying, it means that in the races, the Mercedes is producing 750bhp from its engine – a figure that is not much greater than Ferrari's 061/1 – while Renault and Honda are a little further away.
What seems to make a big difference to the Mercedes performance is that it has more peak power available when it is needed in qualifying and certain race situations.
At the restart at the Singapore Grand Prix on lap three, Nico Rosberg was instantly able to open up a lead over Daniel Ricciardo to get himself out of the DRS zone – before the engine was wound back down to allow him to maintain the gap.
Ferrari's form this season appears to show that it is in a position to match Mercedes in race settings – but falls back when it comes to deliver a qualifying boost.
It is an area that the engineers at Maranello have been working exceptionally hard at trying to address to allow Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to challenge the pace-setting Mercedes.
It will be a tremendous achievement by Andy Cowell if Mercedes is now pushing on past the 1000bhp barrier, for it is something that Ferrari has not been able to achieve because of reliability concerns.
Mercedes' reliability has been pretty strong over the second half of the campaign – despite early issues this season for Lewis Hamilton which resulted in him needing to take extra power unit components at Spa.
Ferrari still has much work to do to be able to unlock a qualifying boost, with a clever system last year of storing fuel past the fuel flow meter to deliver an extra boost when needed having been clamped down on by the FIA.
There have also been rumours that gains can be had by using trick chemicals in the oil to boost power in the fuel chamber, but whether this is truth or fantasy is unclear.
What we do know, however, is that Mercedes is the class of the field in power stakes right now, as F1's engines return to the peak levels of power that were last witnessed in the mid-1980s.
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