Mercedes ‘knew’ 2022 fuel regulations would ‘hit’ power unit’s performance

2022 saw the start of a four-year engine freeze and the start of new fuel regulations, with the sport having moved to more sustainable E10 fuel.

Mercedes endured a horrific start to 2022, and it wasn’t just thanks to the new aerodynamic regulations which were introduced into the sport.

The Silver Arrows were the worst hit team by the shocking porpoising phenomena, something which saw the Germans have to prioritise eradicating the issue, rather than car development.

Whilst their porpoising issues were well documented, the side’s struggles with the new fuel regulations that were also introduced at the start of the season were less reported, despite being just as apparent.

The W13 was a tortoise down the straights in F1 terms, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell having been a sitting duck at most venues.

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The new fuel regulations saw the sport switch to E10, with it being more sustainable.

Worryingly, the team’s power unit doesn’t look set to get any more powerful anytime soon, with a four-year engine freeze having been implemented at the start of this year.

Speaking in a Mercedes video, team principal Toto Wolff admitted that the team endured some “wobbles” with their engine. But that Hywel Thomas, managing director of Mercedes High-Performance Powertrains in Brixworth, and his “team” managed to perform wonders with the power unit.

“We came out at the beginning of the season with some wobbles on the power unit,” Wolff said.

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“We didn’t like certain aspects of the deployment or the drivability of the power unit.

“And, whilst in the frozen environment, [Thomas] and [his] team were able to really add on performance, cope with the difficult environment of a bouncing car that was breaking the engine and still we were super reliable and the engine was performing very well towards the middle of the season and the end.”

Thomas explained in more detail the issues the outfit’s power unit team faced in 2022 and in the latter stages of 2021, with the Germans having put in a “really big effort” to increase the engine’s performance.

“At the beginning of the season, the two big things that we had was, firstly, the PU was going to get frozen and it was going to be a hardware freeze,” Thomas said.

“That’s what we were going to be using for the next three years, and so we had a really big development programme over the whole of last year and through that winter, and just trying to make sure we landed that. It was a real big effort, a really, really big effort.

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“Then the second thing we had was the change in the fuel regulations, which we knew was going to be a hit for us and we expected it to be a hit for others. But it’s the same as the chassis world, with those two quite large changes, we just didn’t know where we were going to end up.

“When we hit the track, I think there was a bit of disappointment and some things that we could certainly put right. We knew we couldn’t do it through hardware, which has been our way of developing things for the past however many years.

“So we had to really go back and reconsider how were we going to develop ourselves out of that position and, after the first race or so, going back and saying our part of this is to get some more performance and get some better drivability and we need to add that at the same time the car is being developed and that’s how we’ll get out of this position.”