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Mercedes F1 engine boss: "Everyone here thinks we're going to be beaten by Ferrari"

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Mercedes F1 engine boss: "Everyone here thinks we're going to be beaten by Ferrari"
Feb 6, 2016, 12:54 PM

Although they have dominated the last two seasons in F1, Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell says that no-one in his Brixworth engine division is unde...

Although they have dominated the last two seasons in F1, Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell says that no-one in his Brixworth engine division is under any illusions about the challenge from its main rivals this season.

He said in a media briefing on Friday, attended by the site, "everybody here is assuming that we're going to get beaten by Ferrari."

The development race this year will be intense now that the handbrake has been let off on areas within the engine that manufacturers can work on to deliver updates during the season, using the token system. Tokens will be phased out from 2017 onwards.

So the enormous gains that Ferrari made from 2014 to 2015 are there to be made again by them or by other manufacturers, like Honda and Renault. It should lead to the field closing up in terms of engine parity, more quickly; maybe another two years.

At that point the chassis and particularly the aerodynamics, will go back to being the main performance differentiator.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 12.58.13

"If we look at what Ferrari has done over the last 12 months, it's remarkable," said Cowell. "Their improvements have been a huge credit to their reshuffle and their enthusiasm.

"Everybody here is going 'I wonder how we're going to do?' Nobody here is assuming we are going to win, everybody here is assuming that we're going to get beaten by Ferrari, and Honda are a big threat.

"They have come in quickly and they are learning in front of the public but they're hugely determined and partnered with McLaren who are hugely determined.

"We know exactly how McLaren work in terms of a data-driven approach, so they are going to make some big, big gains.

"Renault's determination as well, as they've shown by being a lot more involved now in Formula 1, instead of just being a power unit provider there has been a team restructuring. There are going to be some great stories to talk about."

Honda's problem is that they have been reluctant to take help from outside the company and this led to a slower reaction to their problems in 2015. Ferrari, for example, has extensive help on the Energy Recover System from US specialist tech firm MTS, led by former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan.

Honda have had to redesign several key components of the engine, especially in the turbo and ERS areas, but it would be foolish to imagine that they will suffer a repeat of 2015 this year, even if they are over two years behind Mercedes and Ferrari in development. That will be impossible to close up quickly, but they will make major gains in all likelihood.

Mercedes engine

The new season kicks off on March 20 in Melbourne, but there are eight days of pre-season testing first in Barcelona starting in two weeks. Engine development is flat out at the moment and with 21 events on the calendar each driver is allowed five engines instead of last season's four. That remains the case even if, for example, the Austin US Grand Prix is cancelled, as long as that cancellation comes after the first race has taken place.

This gives the engine makers some latitude to press hard on development steps for the later part of the season.

Would you welcome engine parity and a return to chassis and aerodynamics being the main differentiator of performance between cars? Leave your comments below
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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation