Monday, November 10, 2014

Formula 1 Discusses Return to V-8s, Mercedes Says It Will Leave F1 If That Happens

Nico Rosberg at 2014 USGP in Austin, Texas

Formula 1 teams and fans of all colors can agree: Those muted, altogether unsatisfying sounds from the turbocharged hybrid engines adopted this year need to go. But Mercedes isn’t agreeing with the crowd.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas chairman and F1 champ Niki Lauda told Global Motorsport Media that, “If V-8 comes back, Mercedes will be gone.” Lauda was referencing the ever-clearer possibility that F1 rules may write off the complex 1.6-liter turbo V-6 engines and electric motors that the FIA mandated for the 2014 season. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said last week that “we need to change the regulations” and would “try to get rid of these (V-6) engines.”

There’s zero incentive for Mercedes-AMG Petronas to switch back, as the Silver Arrow has won all but three of the 18 races run this season, with the final race of the year happening in Abu Dhabi on November 23. Last month, the team clinched its first-ever constructor’s championship and even taunted Ferrari outside the Italian team’s Maranello headquarters. The same engine powers three other F1 teams including McLaren, Williams, and Force India, and Mercedes would very much like to see these contracts continue in order to pay off its extensive R&D bill.

Mercedes-Benz AMG 1.6-liter turbo V-6 F1 engine

Mercedes-Benz AMG 1.6-liter turbo V-6 F1 engine

The current season killed the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter V-8s that had been in place since 2006. Those engines wailed to 18,000 rpm and made 750 horsepower—or higher in brief bursts thanks to the KERS system. They were reportedly cheaper to develop, too, which is why lower-budget teams like Caterham aren’t in love with the newer engines, which can make only 600 horsepower and have two advanced electric motors that can boost horsepower to about 760 for 33 seconds on each lap.

Even Ferrari, facing gloomy results on track, voiced the possibility in June that it might leave F1 for sports-car racing because “nobody watches racing for the efficiency, come on.” Renault, the only other engine manufacturer, has voiced similar concerns and could force F1, through a majority vote with Ferrari, to relax the rulebook on engine development starting in 2016. Honda, however, decided to return to F1 for 2015 after a six-year absence because of the stricter fuel-efficient regulations, such as limiting fuel to roughly 35 gallons per car in each race. Honda will replace Mercedes as the power behind McLaren starting in March. Whatever happens, we hope F1 clears its throat and gets back to being loud and proud.

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