Re­nault and Honda could match Mercedes in 2017

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

The power strag­glers are clos­ing the gap to F1’s dom­i­nant force – but out­right power isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the key to suc­cess

Re­nault and Honda are hope­ful of elim­i­nat­ing much of their en­gine per­for­mance decit in 2017. McLaren’s en­gine part­ner, Honda, say they will be able to match Mercedes, while sources close to Re­nault claim that their 2017 en­gine fea­tures a per­for­mance boost of at least 0.7 sec­onds a lap.

Us­ing the gure of 0.016s per unit of horse­power, that adds up to around 30kW – pretty much the same amount Red Bull say is Re­nault’s cur­rent decit to Mercedes. In July, Red Bull team prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner said Re­nault were 35kw down on Mercedes.

Mercedes sources dispute this. They in­sist that the Re­nault power unit is nowhere near that far off, and that the Red Bull’s per­for­mance pat­tern is be­ing caused by a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said in Monza: “Where we got it right is that our car is the best com­pro­mise. We have 21 races through­out the sea­son and we have to have a chas­sis-en­gine com­bi­na­tion that works well on av­er­age, and then you have teams that have out­liers.

“You have a team do­ing well on a cir­cuit like Sin­ga­pore with high down­force, but they are not com­pet­i­tive here. Then you play the blame game and say the en­gine is not good enough, but if your car is draggy and has rake like you are do­ing a hand­stand, you can­not go fast on straights.”

As for Honda, they have had a difcult time since re­turn­ing to F1 last year and still lag an es­ti­mated 60kW be­hind the Mercedes. But en­gine boss Yusuke Hasegawa told F1 Rac­ing it was Honda’s ‘ex­pec­ta­tion’ that the new en­gine be­ing pro­duced for 2017 would be on the level of Mercedes in terms of out­right power.

How­ever, he em­pha­sised that this did not nec­es­sar­ily mean the en­gine would be as strong as the Mercedes as a pack­age. This is be­cause of the com­plex re­la­tion­ship in mod­ern F1 turbo hy­brid en­gines be­tween the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine, turbo and en­ergy re­cov­ery sys­tems.

Honda be­lieve the hy­brid sys­tem on their cur­rent en­gine is at least as efcient as that on the Mercedes, but Hasegawa said im­prove­ments planned for next sea­son would mean they’d have to make an­other step on the hy­brid sys­tem, too.

“Cur­rently there is fuel lim­i­ta­tion,” Hasegawa said. “When we have a higher-pow­ered en­gine, this means bet­ter efciency, less fuel us­age. It means less ex­haust en­ergy, which makes it hard to re­cover more tur­bine en­ergy. That’s why cur­rently we have the same level of de­ploy­ment. But when we have more power, it will give us an­other difculty to get more de­ploy­ment.”

Hasegawa says Honda haven’t de­cided on the lay­out of their 2017 en­gine. But they are ex­pected to adopt the Mercedes de­sign, with a com­pres­sor at the front of the en­gine and the turbo at the rear. Cur­rently, th­ese are housed within the vee of the en­gine cylin­ders, lim­it­ing their size.

The ad­van­tage of the Mercedes lay­out is a “huge” im­prove­ment in the cen­tre of grav­ity height, Hasegawa said, be­cause it lets the de­sign­ers put the weighty MGU-H lower in the en­gine. But he warned the engi­neer­ing chal­lenges in­volved made it “very difcult” to make an en­gine of this de­sign work re­li­ably.

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