Mercedes High Performance Powertrains [HPP] boss Hywel Thomas hopes that the engine side of the Mercedes team have nailed the new regulations, but is aware that tweaks may be needed down the line.
Formula 1’s technical regulations are radically changing ahead of the 2022 season with the ground effect returning in a massive swing of aerodynamic regulations.
Ferrari are said to have already overcome the deficit that comes with the new, more sustainable blend of fuel that will be used in 2022, and with the Brixworth squad aiming for the same achievement, Thomas is aware that this year poses a completely new challenge for him and his team.
“The 2022 car is very, very different. We know the aerodynamics are different,” he said during a Mercedes F1 Team video.
“And from all the things that we’ve been told and from all the work we’ve done with the team here at Brackley, we believe that the car will be doing slightly different things, and the requests from the driver will be different as they go through the corners than they were in previous years.
“We’ve got simulations, we’ve done all our calculations, and we’ve modified the engine and the way that the engine drives in order for us to be ready.
“And we’ll be able to react to when the driver puts the power on perhaps in a slightly different way, perhaps at a slightly different time.”
The Briton said that he cannot wait to see the new engine fired up at the first “shakedown” in Barcelona on 23 February, and is prepared for the eventuality that changes may have to be made if the power unit is not exactly to the liking of drivers Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
“Of course, we’re absolutely desperate to get to the first track test so we can see if those simulations are correct. Hopefully they will be,” he added.
“If not, we’ll be ready to adjust the PU as necessary to make sure that the driver gets exactly what they want when they ask for it.”
Chief technical officer of the team, James Allison, has previously testified that the new regulations have necessitated a new way of working, and Thomas shares the view that every aspect of the car will be statistically and tangibly different to what the team has worked with before.
“Every year we take a look at the power unit and the way that it sits inside the chassis in order to give us the best lap time.” he explained.
“With 2022 being an all-new chassis, what that means is that we have an opportunity to look at everything again.
“There are areas on the car which will be very sensitive to lap time. And there’ll be other areas in the car which are less sensitive. And what we’re trying to do with the PU is to make sure that we stay as far away as we can from the sensitive areas to give as much flexibility as possible for the car designers, and to package the parts of the PU into areas where there’s less sensitivity.”
As a result, he sees it as more important than ever to maintain a cohesive relationship with the chassis team in Brackley.
“So what that means is working hand-in-glove with the chassis department, and with all those engineers, to make sure that the PU fits in exactly where it needs to, to make sure we can make the fastest overall package,” he added.
Also coming into force this season is an engine freeze, which prevents teams from developing their power units between the start of the 2022 campaign and the end of 2025.
The electrical systems will then also be frozen midway through the upcoming season and Thomas, who took on his role in 2020, sees this as a “huge challenge.”
“The PU has a frozen performance spec. And what does that mean? It means that from the start of 2022 until the new PU, which we’re expecting to come in 2026, the performance of the engine is frozen,” he explained.
“And from midway through the year, the performance of the electrical systems is also frozen from a performance perspective. So what that means is we will not be able to bring performance upgrades during the year. It’ll only be possible to do reliability upgrades.
“So with the new fuel, the freeze to performance of the PU over the course of the season, and the whole new car, the whole new aerodynamics and fitting the PU within it, there is a huge challenge for everyone involved, and especially team up in HPP.”
Mercedes sealed their record eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship in 2021, and will continue to supply engines to McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams in 2022.