There is a great piece of work on Auto Motor und Sport’s website with an analysis of the engines in this year’s world championship. The analysis is based on collating the information each engine builder has about each other.
I’ve checked it out with some of the F1 engineers and it seems that the data is a pretty accurate reflection of the numbers they are working with.
The result is that Mercedes comes out top, with Toyota at the bottom.
Throughout the year one kept hearing stories about how much the Renault in the back of the Red Bull car was down on power compared to the Mercedes in the Brawn, Force India and the McLaren. In fact Renault were allowed to improve their engine quite a lot from 2008 to 2009 and it ended up not far off the performance of the Mercedes.
Most teams reached the conclusion, based on acoustic analysis and GPS, that the spread of engine power from the best to the worst engines was less than 2.5% this year. This means that, if the Mercedes is believed to have had 755hp, the least powerful engine was 18hp down, which is worth just under 3/10ths of a second per lap.
The BMW and Mercedes were at the top, with the Ferrari just behind, then the Renault and the Toyota. On this basis, given how close the lap times were between teams this year, the Toyota and Williams chassis must have been pretty good to withstand losing 3/10ths of a second through engine performance alone. Both teams had the double diffuser from the start of the year, of course.
Responding to rumours in the paddock about the performance of the Mercedes, the FIA took a Mercedes’ engine apart and tested it after Monza, giving it a clean bill of health.
The Renault won out this year on fuel efficiency, however, which was pretty important this year and will be much more important next year with no refuellling. Compared to the Mercedes, the Renault would go four laps longer on a full tank of fuel, which is worth about 3/10ths of a second per lap next year. The Ferrari was less efficient than the Mercedes, as we saw on several occasions this year.
As for next year, Cosworth is believed to be quoting a figure of 770hp, which is up on the Mercedes, but the fuel efficiency is still an issue and the unit is well short of the reliability testing of its peers.
Mercedes was given clearance by the FIA to supply a fourth team next year, but is not able to do so, due to the terms of its agreement with McLaren. Mercedes now owns the Brawn team, while McLaren has a technology partnership with Force India. So it is not in McLaren’s interests to add another competitor.
Red Bull is in limbo at the moment, waiting to see whether Renault, on whose engine its 2010 car is designed, will continue in F1. A decision is expected at the end of the year.