Renault and Honda could match Mercedes in 2017
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 decit 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 decit 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 difcult 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 efcient 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 efciency, 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 difculty 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 difcult” to make an engine of this design work reliably.