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The tables we published this week were rather large and a lot to take in. Over the next few articles I will be breaking down the data into more easily palatable chunks.
Mercedes-Benz & Force India
Let’s start our analysis with Mercedes-Benz. As Mercedes supplies the most teams with PU and Gearbox elements, this will be the most complex summary, so I am breaking it up into 2 parts.
Mercedes-Benz AMG supplies Power Units to FI, Williams and Lotus. They also supply gearboxes to FI while Williams and Lotus build their own.
Since MERC and FI are both using the same driveline, lets take a look at them together.
On the whole, Mercedes as an engine and gearbox supplier is doing very well. All 4 cars that run Mercedes gearboxes made it 6 races on their first, totalling 16,982km and averaging 4,245km per gearbox. Technically Williams has their average beaten with 4618km however that is because Bottas was forced to essentially run 7 races on a gearbox. More on that later.
Rosberg leads the distance total for all manufacturers, having covered 1,116 laps and amassing 5,316km on his first 2 power units and gearboxes.
Mercedes, Williams, and Lotus all changed out the complete Power Unit before Canada. That included all 6 elements. The only exception to this was Lewis who had changed out his CE very early in the season. He remains on CE #2.
I project Lewis and Nico to make it through at least the 10th race in Hungary on PU #2, and then change to their final PU prior to the US GP. This means Mercedes last power unit will only have to cover a maximum of 4 races.
However, there is a new twist to the situation. If we assume that PU#1 for Hamilton and Rosberg is still good, they could continue to use those Power Units for FP 1 & 2 on Friday, thus significantly reducing the wear on the subsequent Power Unit and it’s components. Sergio’s PU proves they are good for at least 5,000km, all things being equal. Using that number as our benchmark, Lewis having only covered 4251km on his first PU, and averaging 100km/FP session, should get at least 7 free practice sessions out of the old PU. Nico may only get 4 FP sessions from his first PU. This may reduce the amount of distance incurred by PU #2 by as much as 1000 km over 5 race weekends and allow Mercedes to further put off their next PU installation past my projection of race 10 in Hungary.
Is it possible that Mercedes used Power Unit #1 for FP 1 & 2 in Canada? Yes, however….
Personally I think it is unlikely. Installing an untested PU the night before qualifying is inherently risky, especially since we know there really isn’t enough time to do a PU change between FP3 and Qualifying. So my data shows that Hamilton and Rosberg have used PU/ICE #2 for FP 1 & 2 in Canada as a shakedown period.
I will be listening and reading intently on Friday this week to see if anyone mentions what PU Mercedes is using for practice. If we hear nothing my data will reflect the most logical, which is that Mercedes will be using old Power Units on Friday, and switching to their second Power Unit for FP3, Qualifying and race.
But not all 8 cars made it 7 races with the Mercedes Power Units.
Nico Hulkenberg dropped out of the Chinese Grand Prix very early on. The total distance on the PU at failure was 1,887km. It was immediately reported that he had a gearbox issue. He obviously did not have a gearbox failure, and we know this because his gearbox remained in the car through Monaco. If we dig deeper into the FIA docs, we will see that Hulkenberg was one of two Mercedes powered drivers to replace his Control Electronics earlier in the season. In hindsight, we now see that this was an early warning of major failure, because 10 laps into the Chinese GP, something in Hulkenberg’s Power Unit failed, spectacularly.
Before the next race in Bahrain, Hulkenberg had replaced his Turbo, MGU-K, MGU-H and ICE. The only element that had not been replaced at that point was the battery. Mercedes has not told us specifically what failed, but whichever piece did, it seems to have taken out the rest. So Hulkenberg started Bahrain on PU/ICE #2 but Gearbox #1. Since Nico didn’t finish China, Force India had the ability to change his gearbox for a new one, without penalty, before the Bahrain GP but they did not.
Why? File that one away for a moment..
So with the exception on Nico Hulkenberg’s #1 Power Unit, things at Mercedes are going pretty swimmingly. They are on track to use 4 PU’s per car over the course of the season, and barring another unforeseen failure, they will not incur any grid penalties for breaking the 4 PU limit on any car. All discussions of Mercedes reliability problems are now bunk as far as I am concerned. They have by far the most reliable PU and are in a dead heat with Williams for most reliable gearbox. I am probably not telling you anything that the keen observer hasn’t already figured out, but now we have the numbers to back it up.
However, Nico Hulkenberg‘s PU failure set him back more than most realise. We can see from the Mercedes data, that having PU#1 around to use for Free Practice is a real advantage. Hulkenberg will be stuck amassing kilometers on his #2 PU during the practice sessions. It also means he is out of the regular rotation and this may have adverse effects for him when Mercedes choose to do their token upgrades.
The Sergio Situation
Sergio Perez was the only driver in a Mercedes Powered car to NOT get a new PU in Canada. Toto Wolf says it was because they could not build enough PU’s in time, specifically the fuel system, and that after inspection, Perez’s ICE had the least amount of damage.
Well lets look at the numbers shall we? After Monaco, distance numbers on Mercedes ICE’s were as follows:
- ROS – 4,566
- HAM – 4,251
- MAS – 4,267
- BOT – 4,232
- PER – 4,233
- GRO – 3,787
- MAL – 3,293
- HUL – was already running PU#2 for 3 races
So Perez was essentially tied with Bottas for 4th in distance at 4,233 km, yet he had the least amount of damage according to Toto? Pastor had only covered 3,293 km before all the PU’s were changed. If the decision on which PU not to change was based on damage/wear, why wasn’t Perez’s PU changed and Pastor made to run one more race on his?
Even with completing the entire race weekend in Canada, Pastor would have amassed 4034 km, right at the average for all Mercedes powered cars.
So we have 2 situations where Force India had the option to upgrade major pieces of their drivetrain but did not. One more like this and I will call it a trend, but for the moment my speculation is the same as Hippo’s..
They couldn’t afford it.
Is it possible the early PU change for Hulkenberg put FI too far into the red financially? This would explain why they have done very little chassis development so far this year. The double whammy for Perez is that going an extra race on PU #1 most likely means he will get Zero distance out of it in the future. It’s failure must be imminent, so I expect that even if he does try to use it in Austria, we will see Perez climbing out of the car in FP2 this weekend with a PU failure of some kind.
Regardless, Perez should have a brand new PU in Austria for FP3, Qualifying and Race. If he does not, I would expect Force India to collapse within weeks.
Not to be mister negative all the time, was Perez’s delay of PU change strategic in some way? If we look at the projections, Sergio would be changing to his 4th PU one race later than everyone else. This means he would potentially have a fresh PU for the Mexico GP, whereas everyone else will start Mexico with one more race on #4. Do I need to remind you where Sergio is from?
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Stay tuned – Next up is Williams and Lotus. You will see their ICE data is included here because that’s how I built the tables, but we will be taking a more detailed look at them in our next article.
As always your comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged.