Brixworth’s landmark engines
Before Mercedes-Benz bought into the company, Ilmor made a low-key entry into Formula 1 with the 3.5-litre 2175A V10 engine, which powered the Leyton House CG911 (left) in 1991. It wasn’t an especially competitive car, but Ivan Capelli claimed the first points with an Ilmor engine by finishing sixth in Hungary. For 1992 Ilmor also supplied Tyrrell, then moved exclusively to Sauber in 1993. Mercedes took a 25 per cent stake in the company at the end of the year, and all Ilmor engines carried the Mercedes logo from then on.
Mercedes kicked Sauber into touch for 1995 and partnered with McLaren, but it wasn’t until the second-generation 3-litre V10 arrived in 1997 that they started winning, with David Coulthard claiming the honours in the MP4/12 (left) at the season-opener in Australia. But the FO 110E and its successor, the FO 110F, weren’t paragons of reliability: Coulthard and Häkkinen each suffered four engine failures during races, plus many more in practice sessions. At the Luxembourg GP, McLaren were in the running for a one-two… until both engines failed.
Even as Mika Häkkinen dominated the 1998 championship in the FO 110G-powered McLaren MP4/13, Brixworth were already in the process of developing the lighter, lower and much more powerful FO 110H. Häkkinen would need it – the new MP4-14 (above) was an edgier car than its predecessor and a bit less reliable, which would mean the world championship would go down to the final race.
Having lost out in the power stakes to Ferrari during the early 2000s, Brixworth hit back with the final iteration of the FO 110 family in 2005. Now producing over 900bhp and revving up to 19,500rpm, this version of the V10 was now reliable enough to last the mandatory two races. In spite of the fragility of the MP4-20 (left), Kimi Räikkönen pushed Fernando Alonso hard – just missing out on the drivers’ title.
It was all change for 2006 as Mercedes introduced the 2.4-litre V8 FO 108 family in line with the new engine regs. Along with a standard ECU, homologation arrived in 2007 – the so-called ‘engine freeze’ – and a rev limit of 19,000rpm. Although both 2007 McLaren drivers fought for the title, which Lewis Hamilton won in 2008, perhaps Mercedes’ most dominant year was 2009 thanks to the Brawn BGP 001. The FO 108W, now capped at 18,000rpm, won ten out of 17 races, letting Hamilton take the first win for a hybrid engine in the MP4-24 (above left).