Mercedes has targeted having the most powerful ‘party’ mode for Formula 1 qualifying this year, despite the need for engines to last longer.
F1’s manufacturers have spent the winter focusing on improved reliability in 2018 now that the number of engines each driver is allowed for the year has been reduced to three.
But while Ferrari and Renault are said to be satisfied that their longer life power units have hit the same performance levels as last year’s version, Mercedes says its ambition has been to hit new power peaks.
And with Lewis Hamilton suggesting he cannot wait to unleash Mercedes’ qualifying maps – which he has nicknamed ‘party mode’ – for the first time in Melbourne, the German car manufacturer is clear that it will not allow the three-engine rule to compromise its performance push.
Speaking to Motorsport.com during a promotional event with Mercedes’ fuel and lubricants partner Petronas, its F1 engine chief Andy Cowell said that changes to its power unit for 2018 were aimed at helping the car’s packaging – as well as lifting its horsepower.
“It’s more elegant, it fits better within the aerodynamic constraints of the car," he said. "We’ll know in Abu Dhabi if it lasts longer than the previous one – and there’s been a continuous push to make sure our qualifying mode and our race modes are stronger than previous years.”
Although both Renault and Honda have stressed they started the season with an initial focus on engine reliability, Cowell thinks that holding back on power is the wrong approach.
“The most positive way of looking at the championship is you’re going to produce a power unit that’s capable of doing seven races and making sure that as it crosses the line at the end of the seventh race you’ve got good confidence," he said.
“But what you mustn’t do is turn the power down. We need our qualifying mode to be better than ever before, we need our race mode to be better than ever before.
“We need the life to be strong enough that you can set the car up well on a Friday – you mustn’t start cutting mileage. Our approach is to go in with that as our premise. If something happens, if a quality issue occurs, then we’ll react and adapt.”
Hamilton suggested that Mercedes’ pace in Barcelona testing had not been boosted by using the qualifying modes – and said he was relishing the chance to fully unleash what his car was capable of in Australia this weekend.
“Our quali mode is the most fun mode – it should be the ‘party’ mode,” said the world champion. “It is the most power and has the most juice, and it’s when we hit the highest speeds.
“I think Andy and the team have definitely tested it already on the dyno and I look forward to using it on the few occasions we do in the season.”