At the dawn of the Formula One hybrid engine in era in 2013, Mercedes AMG F1 delivered a power unit which proved to be supreme. The investment by Brixton and Stuttgart was reportedly over $1 billion as the marque intended to dominate the sport for a decade. 8 consecutive constructor’s later this proved to have been money well spent.
The man credited with masterminding the V6 hybrid engine was Andy Cowell.
Cowell was the Engineering director for Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines from 2008 to 2013 when he was promoted to MD. In this role he oversaw the development of the all conquering PU106a V6 Hybrid Power Unit which has universally been accepted the best power train during the first year of the hybrid era.
In June 2020 Cowell left the team to pursue other interests but he was restricted under his contract with Mercedes from joining another F1 team for 2 years.
When asked after FP1 in Hungary about the rumoured Porsche involvement with Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner tantalisingly replied, “We’re in a great position. The team is very strong. Red Bull power trains are going from strength to strength.”
“We’ve recruited some more great talent – some more announcements coming out soon – some significant recruitments into the team.”
For us we’re on a journey, where that takes us in the future – if we decide to take on a partner only time will tell.”
Red Bull are in effect running the old Honda engine despite the Japanese firm having retired from Formula One. The engine regulations are now frozen until 2026 when a new set of regulations will be agreed for new engines and Red Bull Powertrains will then require hugely upgraded facilities and know how to develop a new power train.
Horner reveals Red Bull will be investing heavily in their power train division.
“Coming into Formula One as a newcomer particularly on the powertrain side we have to have a glide path so we can develop a facility which matches decades of investment [in powertrains from our competitors.”
“That applies to Porsche, that applies to Audi and very much applies to Red Bull Powertrains having made that commitment to enter as a power unit manufacturer.”
The Red Bull team bosses comments clearly sets Red Bull Powertrains alongside Audi and Porsche as potential power unit developers for the new 2026 engines.
To deliver this the team needs the likes of an Andy Cowell who has been there and seen it all before. The team has always had engines supplied by others and their expertise has been more in the car design department and the harmonisation of the power unit and the chassis.
TJ13 revealed last year sources confirmed Andy Cowell would be joining the team
At the time Red Bull Racing declared their intentions to build an F1 powertrain Toto Wolff mocked the notion.
“15 guys and an empty building site construction is not going to be sufficient in order to be competitive in three years with a new power unit.” Well it seems that Christian Horner may well have the last laugh now.
Prior to Cowell quoting Mercedes the UK government announced ‘Project Pitlane’ which was to be focused on three work streams. These workstreams vary in scope from reverse engineering existing medical devices, to support in scaling the production of existing ventilator designs as part of the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, to the rapid design and prototype manufacture of a new device for certification and subsequent production.
Cowell told f1.com “[Project Pitlane] helped confirm that my decision was the correct one,”
“I handed my notice in in January and Project Pitlane popped up in March.
“Project Pitlane was a ‘go and have a go at something different’ that lit the bonfire in my belly and got my head thinking every second of the day about CPAPs [continuous positive airway pressure machines] and about anything else that Project Pitlane was working on, and that’s the challenge that I want going forward.”
Yet it seems after two years Cowell is ready for another challenge back in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Following TJ13 breaking the news about Cowell’s new contract with Red Bull in 2021, Christian Horner was vague in his denial Red Bull revealing only that Andy Cowell, Mercedes’ former engine chief, is ‘keen to pursue other opportunities’
Exactly what Christian Horner’s “significant recruitment announcements due shortly” is likely to cause more feverous speculation in the paddock and it’s in character for Horner to tease us all from time to time.