Will Mercedes Bring Their F1 Engine to the Roads?
Historically, Formula 1 has been an experimental ground for novel automotive technology. As a matter of fact, most of the technology we use on our daily drive has derived from motorsports. Safety, fuel efficiency, tires, and brakes are all tested under extreme conditions in Formula 1 racing. This is the ultimate test to prove functionality and safety on the road.
After thoroughly testing the technology, car manufacturers adapt it for everyday use before innovations are used by the end consumer. It’s an arduous process, but if we look at how cars have evolved in the past 40 years, you can see it is money well spent.
Formula 1 101
Formula 1 started in 1946 and since the beginning, Mercedes-Benz has been a part of it. The company has a long lineage of racing champions and victories. Due to the nature of Formula 1 racing, innovation is necessary to be competitive. To win, perfect execution is imperative.
Mercedes-Benz has been engineering solutions to just about every problem that racing has faced. The silver arrows of the 30’s and 40’s are a great example.
The Silver Arrow nickname was given to the Mercedes-Benz model W25 racecar because, in an effort to meet the weight limit regulations, the team stripped the white paint from the car. Ever since, silver has become the traditional color for Mercedes, and a reference to the outside-the-box racing team’s solution.
Mercedes-Benz withdrew from racing in the 50’s but later continued as an engine supplierm and their engines accumulated more than 100 wins. In 2010, Mercedes-Benz returned to racing as a full team, not just an engine supplier. Amongst its drivers, you can find racing legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss.
From the Track to the Street
You can see technology that was developed on the racetrack every day. Your car is a perfect showcase of race-bred technology. The engine, transmission, tires, suspension, brakes, and electronics were all initially developed for racing.
Fuel injection, a technology that virtually all modern cars use in their engines, was developed and tested in racing. The shocks in your suspension are filled with gas that was pioneered in racing. Automatic transmissions, steel brake discs, active energy recovery, electric and internal combustion hybrid engines were all pioneered first through racing.
Safety has always been one of the main concerns for the automotive industry. This is one of the areas that has come ahead the furthest. In the early days, it was an incredibly dangerous sport. In modern times it is very rare that a driver is seriously injured after an accident. Taking into consideration that Formula 1 cars can go over 200 miles per hour, not having anyone seriously injured is a clear indicator of how far things have evolved.
Modern Day F1
Today’s Formula 1 races are an impressive display of innovation, engineering, and talent. These modern racecars have reached speeds higher than 225 miles per hour before having to brake upon entering a curve.
The 2016 Formula 1 championship is made up of 21 races, each one of them in a different country. There are 24 drivers in 11 teams competing to win the championship.
We first began seeing hybrid technology in road cars in the early 2000’s. This technology came as a response to increasing fuel prices and a commitment from car manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprint. Initially, their main goal was to provide greater fuel economy, but as of recent years, this technology has also been used by Mercedes-Benz to power the fastest hypercars in existence. Today, the fastest cars on the road receive the title of hypercar.
Electric engine technology has been harnessed and repurposed to complement the internal combustion engine. Together they are capable of doing what neither one on their own can achieve. For example, torque management (the amount of strength with which a tire rotates) can be digitally modulated and controlled to a much greater extent than what is possible with internal combustion engines. This allows cars to optimize traction and provide mind-boggling performance.
A New Hypercar?
The new Mercedes hypercar may have an engine that is entirely based off of their F1 racecar.
Nowadays, due to F1 rules and regulations, the engines have a lot more in common with road cars. For example, both use aluminum blocks.
Also, other features such as its carbon brakes, adjustable suspension, and advanced aerodynamics will probably be used with the Mercedes-Benz hypercar. The engine to be used by Mercedes-Benz is called the PU 106C and it’s a 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged hybrid engine that can reach engine speeds of up to 15,000 rpm and generates between 750 – 850 hp.
The main challenge for translating engine technology to the roads is durability. A Formula 1 engine only needs to work for 2 hours, which is what races usually last. And they are often rebuilt or replaced after each race. A road car’s engine must last for years, and although they are not driven nearly to their max capacity on a daily basis, it’s still a challenge for manufacturers.