Mercedes F1 engine tweaks have cured high-altitude weakness

Mercedes says its front row lockout at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix is proof that it has cured a previous weakness its power unit had at high-altitude Formula 1 tracks.

Mercedes F1 engine tweaks have cured high-altitude weakness

The German manufacturer had arrived at the Mexico City race concerned that title rival Red Bull would have a significant performance advantage in both power and downforce terms.

In the past, Red Bull’s Honda engine and turbo has proved to be better suited to operating in the less dense air of Mexico.

But contrary to expectations, Mercedes topped all three sessions in qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton in the decisive Q3 session.

Speaking afterwards, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said that the evidence of the weekend shows that the gap in performance between engines has been wiped away.

“We have optimised it for these conditions,” explained Wolff.

“At the end, you’re trying to extract power unit performance throughout the calendar, and the outliers are somehow difficult to take account for.

“But it’s more a tuning question. It’s not that we’ve put the engine upside down. It’s just we better understand why it didn’t perform in high altitude.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Wolff’s comments on the Mercedes power unit being in better shape now have been backed by Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson, who says the change has been noticeable.

“It is better at dealing with the altitude than it was in 2019, I think it’s fair to say,” said Robson.

“Part of that is just the natural evolution of it over the last two years. But yeah, they have made some changes to it that make it more suitable for running here.”

The work that Mercedes did for its power unit for Mexico proved critical in giving Bottas and Hamilton the opportunity to overhaul Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who had led his championship-leading team-mate in FP3.

Echoing Hamilton's comments, Wolff admitted that a front row lockout was far from what the team had expected ahead of qualifying.

“We were all surprised,” he said.

“It was pretty obvious that Max would take pole, and that it would be a fight between us and Checo for the other positions.

Pole man Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Pole man Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Then we could see that qualifying really came towards us. On the medium, we started really to outperform them, and at no point in Q3 did they have a lead on any of the laps.

“Also I believe that in the last lap, they were behind. So yeah, that makes the sport for me so fascinating, that from one session to the other performance can swing.

“We’ve seen it to our detriment in Austin, and now it has happened to our advantage here in Mexico.”

Additional reporting from Luke Smith and Alex Kalinauckas

shares
comments

Related video

Sainz surprised to qualify sixth for F1 Mexican GP after power unit scare
Previous article

Sainz surprised to qualify sixth for F1 Mexican GP after power unit scare

Next article

Why Tsunoda wasn’t at fault in Mexico F1 qualifying controversy

Why Tsunoda wasn’t at fault in Mexico F1 qualifying controversy
Load comments
Why new era F1 is still dogged by its old world problems Plus

Why new era F1 is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway. But instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Plus

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Plus

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. JAMES NEWBOLD hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwarts

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Plus

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Plus

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021 Plus

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as STUART CODLING finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton Plus

The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls a remarkable champion

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022
How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam Plus

How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam

George Russell joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes this year gives it arguably the best line-up in Formula 1 – if it can avoid too many fireworks. After serving his apprenticeship at Williams, Russell is the man that Mercedes team believes can lead it in the post-Hamilton era, but how will he fare against the seven-time champion? Autosport heard from the man himself

Formula 1
Jan 6, 2022