Why is Sergio Perez down on the Mercedes F1 engine?
Innovation
Posted By: Editor   |  27 Apr 2017   |  5:39 pm GMT  |  73 comments

A curious episode in the Sochi paddock this afternoon as Force India’s Sergio Perez claimed that the team’s Mercedes Formula 1 engine has been caught up by rivals and now only Honda’s power unit is inferior.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who is powered by Renault has refuted the claim that Renault has caught up.

So why would Perez downplay the potency of Mercedes at this stage of the season?

Ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Perez has said that Ferrari and Renault have made “massive” gains to catch up with the class-leading Mercedes engine this season. Ferrari has won two out of the three races this season.

When asked if Mercedes had lost the advantage it had in 2016 in power, Perez replied: “Yes. I definitely think that Ferrari is at the same level as Mercedes and Renault is more or less there. We only have the advantage to Honda.”

His former team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg, joined Renault for this season and his best finish was ninth at the Bahrain Grand Prix this month. Perez has had three points finishes, finishing seventh in Bahrain from 18th on the grid.

In a tight midfield battle this season between Mercedes-powered Force India and Williams, Ferrari-powered Haas and Renault’s factory team, Force India’s fourth place finish in 2016 is under threat.

“I think [Sochi] should be a bit better to us. I think Bahrain really exposed all of our issues in one go. It was also a very tricky weekend up to quali with all the issues that I had personally with the car.

“I think Bahrain was always going to be a very hard race for us given the track layout, how it is. It was probably one of the hardest races for us. I think here we should be a bit more competitive. I at least have the hope that we can be more competitive and closer to where we should be,” he said.

Aerodynamics play a bigger part with the wide-ranging 2017 rule changes bringing in higher downforce and faster cornering speeds. As a result, a power-deficit can be countered a little easier by a solid chassis this season – Perez said earlier this season to Autosport that he had to undergo an “extreme diet” to counter the VJM10’s heavy weight during pre-season testing.

The Mexican driver, when asked whether the rules changes have made power less important, replied: “It’s the opposite I think.

“This year with these cars, the engines are much more important than in the past. The amount of time you spend full throttle is a lot less, and the amount you recover is also a lot less. Definitely Ferrari and Renault have done a massive step forward to catch Mercedes.”

Verstappen contradicts claims that Renault has caught up with leaders

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has said that Perez’s claims are untrue because “there is still quite a deficit” between the Renault engine and its competitors’.

The Dutchman’s lack of confidence between the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi comes after he has earned the team’s only podium this year in China, with two DNFs between Verstappen and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

“Of course they are working really hard,” Verstappen said to Autosport. “We’re also working really hard to improve the car.

“But I think there is still quite a deficit. So we need to continue working hard together to make it better in the upcoming races.

“We are not on the same level in terms of downforce as well, so we cannot make the differences in the corners.”

JA reported yesterday that the F1 Strategy Group is tightening measures to prevent teams from burning oil as fuel to gain extra power in qualifying – illegally – in 2018.

Perez’ view is not one you have heard often this year; certainly most drivers and observers would say that Mercedes is still the benchmark, but that Ferrari has closed up impressively since its poor showing in 2014, the first year of hybrid turbos. Unlike Honda the collaborate with outsiders and the part played by MTC on electric motors in the hybrid system isn’t to be underestimated.

So effective has been the work of Mattia Binotto’s team in the engine department at Maranello, that he was promoted to technical director last summer and many with knowledge of the Ferrari ecosystem tip him as a potential team principal after Maurizio Arrivabene.

Renault has made a big gain over the winter, but so far has not been able to display all its gains on track due to a fault in the hybrid system. A failsafe part has been used but the full upgrade package should be on display soon. This will give the full 35kW step from 2016 to 2017.

Is Mercedes’ dominance in power still evident, or do you think Ferrari has caught up? Is it unfair to say that Mercedes is only better than Honda now? Comment in the section below or on the JA on F1 Facebook page.

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1

Until the next merc updated PU finds an extra 0.5s on the whole field...

2

I think, in race at least, Ferrari is probably a match to Merc, but it still seems Merc has that 2-3kph advantage in Q3, which is in region of 15hp. 15hp, with drag these cars are producing, is around 2 tenths of a second per lap. That, with cars being so close is still pretty considerable amount and can make a difference between P1 and P3 on the grid.

I guess there is some truth in Merc using special high energy oil during Q3 to give them more boost, since it pretty much means they would be able to bypass 100kg fuel flow limit at any point of the Q or race.

All in all, FIA likely cannot implement sensors to check it thoroughly until 2018, and other teams are probably using it or want to use it (RB) as well, so Merc is likely safe for now. Merc engined teams must feel the end is near though...these engines are already in high 40%'s as far as ICE efficiency goes and that is pretty much unheard of.

3
Clarks4WheelDrift

Ha ha, how would Sergio know, he never gets to see a works Merc engine or a works Ferrari till they lap him.

He must believe that the Force India customer PU is the sape spec as the works Merc PU!

Someone tell him to either record a race or watch the last three F1 season reviews to enlighten the lad 😉

4

I just saw Merc almost losing to Ferrari in Sochi. Not sure wat you mean

5

@clarks
Or maybe he's letting Ferrari know that he's a little unhappy and available next year😊

6

At this point imo Perez would be a good choice for Ferrari next year.... each year year he seems to improve especially in consistancy.

7

Clarkes, it is the same spec. I'm not sure why so many people seem to have convinced themselves that it isn't. When Mercedes say publicly that they supply "identical engines, with identical modes" or say that the engines all come off the same production line and get sent to either customer or works teams, they can't be lying about that. Those engine supply deals are mega million dollar contracts, if Mercedes were conning their customers then those customers would know immediately, and would be suing a Merc for breach of contract.

8

It is the same spec but not software they dont have the same mapping that Merc do

9
Clarks4WheelDrift

Ah, I see, so when the customers finish a lap or so down, it's all Rosberg and Hamilton then 😉

10

Clarkes, yes I'm sure Mercedes really need extra horsepower to stay in front of Williams and Force India!

11

Integration with the rest of the car gives the in house engine teams the edge,

12

Italianpodge, that and a hundred million or so worth of chassis evelopmwnt and aero research....

13

... and tyre modelling

14

Uhh, no, it's superior integration of the power unit with a superior chassis, enabled by being designer of both power unit and chassis, along with $300 million more to play with each season.

15

Until we see all four power units running reliably it's tough to be sure which is the best. I'd like to think Hondas has the most potential.
It is a real shame that a topic such as the pu is so uninteresting due to the ultimate lack of knowledge on each manufacturers unit. The sooner they're all the same and frozen the better. It'd be great to see some really in depth comparisons on the how's and why's of them all.

16

If by potential you mean room for improvement, then absolutely. If you mean potential to be the "best" PU ... you may have missed the first 3 episodes of the current series 😉

17

The sooner they're all the same and frozen the better. It'd be great to see some really in depth comparisons on the how's and why's of them all.

You want them all to be the same, and then you want to do comparisons on them???

18

I wonder if it's a dig at Mercedes for holding back on its customers? None of them seem to have access to the fabled qualifying modes the works team uses in Q3.

19

Guy, except they do have full access to those modes....

20

Or maybe they are so far behind they have to use those modes in all three qualifying sessions? All Mercedes PU customers, including Mercedes, get the same PUs.

21

Maybe because it's illegal.?!

22

Perhaps a telling comment (only a little out of context): ". . .with all the issues that I had personally with the car. "

23

If you Observer the trend of Perez's statements, he is on a roll to downplay everything from engine, and chassis. Its a clever way to promote one self. Merc clearly has an advantage in Quali, and little better if not equal in race, only issue so far observed to be the tire degradation.

24

Agree, that is what Alonso has been doing for more than a decade.

25

And succesful i may ad. Everyone think he still is the greatest.

26

Yep. Apart from the engines in the works cars that have a nice advantage in their pocket for Q3.

27

NickH, apparently the customers do have the quali mode. Would take more than that to get a Williams on pole though.

28

Hi James, maybe I misread but the article doesn't explain why Perez is downplaying Mercedes advantage. Do you mind explaining?

29

It explains what he says but as to why he said it - No. we'd like to know, because it doesn't look like that from here!

30

I don't know either but it might be in the past two years FI's not the best chassis was compensated by MBs extra power
He might be having a harder time now when passing or defending from Haas, Toro-Rosso and Renault

31

Merc donk definitely gave Williams a leg up in 14, through 15/16 they had problems with unstable rear end?

32
Clarks4WheelDrift

Williams have had problems since they challenged Merc at the start of Silverstone and took a pole at Austria a good while ago...

33

Clarkes, Williams have had problems since they started operating with half the budget of the top teams. Having the sixth biggest budget out of ten teams is hardly a recipe for regular podiums....

34

Are Force India going to announce they are having Saubers engine allocation?

35

If Checo think he's got motive power issues, he should sample a Honda PU.........I've indulged in my fair share of Honda bashing, but the fact that Fernando Alonso in the race was nearly 10 MPH slower down the main straight than his competitors is dire - and Checo is misplaced.

It's pure supposition to say the McLaren in Alonso's hands would be a podium baiter, but at the very least it would be competing for regular Top 8 points finishers, because it's traction and stability under braking is pretty good, as evidenced by Alonso's heroics in the slippery greasy conditions in China. Perhaps the Spaniard should pray for a European summer washout, like 2008..............

36

I think - as most seem to say - that Mercedes is still ahead of Ferrari. It may, however, be closer than most think as Hamilton is probably the best in qualifying (although Merc were quite far ahead in Bahrain). Ferrari have made up for this due to solid strategy, a car that performs better on long runs, and because Vettel has been the best on race day.

37

it seems HAM is cracking up under the Bottas pressure.

38

Maybe the customer Mercs are down on the works Ferrari and Renault? That could make sense...

39

The Mercedes engine is still the best engine in F1. I am going to go as far as saying that right now the power unit is the only reason they are close to Ferrari. It just looks like the Mercedes was poorly conceived. It is possible Paddy Lowe's exit, left the technical team without a leader when decisions were being made about what paths to follow. Either way it feels like the Mercedes is back in pre-2014 territory worrying about rear tire wear. I am curious to see if the rules will allow the team to fix the rear traction issues that are hurting its performance on softer compounds.

40

... Sergio Perez claimed that the team’s Mercedes Formula 1 engine has been caught up by rivals...

I think the Merc power is still the benchmark.
I am intrigued by Checko's ascertation???
I wonder what we will see on the weekend?

What's going on?

I've not been paying toomuch attention to it, but someone must have written the 'conspiracy theory' about the Merc extreme/quali mode, as summarized here (probably poorly):
They have an engine that can run like a diesel engine; so at limited times, the Merc can burn oil (supposedly a lubricant, as per the FIA and scrutineering) as fuel.
Toto claims that it is just that Merc has 'clever engine mapping'; and as regulars know, if Toto says it, I am suspicious of it.
There is supposed to be 'even more' scrutiny of engine oil, but I don't remember seeing when??? this would be implemented.
Does anybody know?

41

Explain to me where the oil can be burned as fuel. All of the ICEs will consume some amount of oil, as do all regular road cars. But how do the regulations allow for oil burning in any amount that would give any sort of horse power boost?

42

Any fluid added to the air can improve thermal efficiency. Even injecting water in the exhaust, to create steam can aid the turbo extract extra power , because it increases flow and pressure in the exhaust, while lowering the temperatures (all temperature, pressure, velocity and noise after the turbo is wasted energy, but the turbo can only recover the pressure and velocity of the exhaust gasses)
Injecting water on the inlet side of the ICE has even more potential.
So, if Mercedes uses a small quantity of oil, to cool inlet air by vapourisation, or burn to increase available chemical energy inside the ICE and/or add to the volume of exhaust gasses doesn't matter. What matters is that it's an advantage to those that are limited to 100l/h fuel flow limit.
100l/h is 27.7cm³/s, so if you burn 3cm³/s during half a minute of full throttle in qualifying, you've got upto 10% extra chemical energy available. 3cm³ * 30s is only 90cm³.
In a lean burn engine, this wouldn't even be visible in the smoke, but probably smellable.

43

@George.be - nice explanation. But surely its not as easy as that? A few issues that spring to mind are:

(i) metering the correct amount at the correct time (control).
(ii) ensuring that the combustion characteristics of the fuel+additive do not damage the hot side of the engine.
(iii) that the primary purpose of the oil (lubrication) is not in any way compromised.
(iv) That the "plumbing" or oil delivery mechanism to the combustion chamber is well hidden, as its quite a naughty thing they are allegedly doing.

44

I'm the last to say Mercedes are doing it! But at the same time the first to say there are ways to achieve things like that.
Metering the correct amount on a few seconds a lap is simple:
Just use a nozzle and limited pressure and you're done. For instance, if you increase the oil-pressure above a setpoint in a certain mode, to open a nozzle injecting a small amount of oil inside the turbocharger compressor while keeping the pressure lower during the rest of the race will achieve an enriched mode.
Alternative: If they control the turbocharger speeds, and let them rev higher during qualification, a measured oil seal leakage on the compressor side can be triggered (the vacuum on the back side of the compressor wheel is an exponential function of the speed)
Inside the motor they can play with the crank case pressure or piston temperatures to get oil from the piston cooling jets above the piston.
They can chose to cut partial power by opening the throttle wider wile cutting/delaying the ignition, and time the fuel injection to boost turbo speeds. I don't know what is allowed in the rules of F1, but these things are Old-school tech in the Rallycars

45

dren:
I don't know, I'm just a mesenger of this idea.
But I expect, with adequate money, resources, and cleverness, it would be possible. I was under the impression that the fancy engine mapping enabled sparkless combustion, like the operation of a diesel engine; so how far would it be to create a chemical formula, which works fine as a lubricant, but could be mixed with the petrol compound to enable additive power?
I expect it is doable.
There is more energy in a mL of diesel than a mL of gasoline (as we call it).
Definitely not beyond the realm of possibility, non?

46

You don't need to go sparkless / diesel. Oil or diesel would burn only after ingnition of the normal fuel since the temperatures on the end of compression is too low to selfcombust. If applied correctly, in theory, you could make a direct injected engine that "stores" fuel in partial throttle mode to be used when the throttle is opened to the max

47

Mercedez domainence is over..as per Toto Wolf. As by results. As per race strategy mistakes . As per pre-race mistakes.

Now we can see how Hamiltin started to melt under pressure. Example opening DRS before time which cost him pole position in Bahrain. Then team order thinking be able to catch Vettle.

I expect mercedez will dip and disappear as BR after 4 yrs winning streak

48

It's a dig at his former team in an un direct way.

49

"Oh, haven't I done well in my underpowered FI car."

That'll stop the press asking awkward questions about my team's owner.

50

I don't really see the point either ask Perez about the team owner, the Vijay's legal or illegal issues are not his concern or mistakes... for me it is really silly, this is not soccer or american idol.

51

Credit to Perez. Lets not forget that his Mercedes engine does not enjoy the benefits of oil burn as with the Petronas Mercedes alliance.

52

@BVBN

Enjoy the Benefits of oil burn as with the Petronas Mercedes alliance.

Yes but none of them seem to take credit for this.. Neither Petrnos nor MB. I do read a few die hard fans speculate the same and try and help Petronas get credit for it but till date they couldnt help out with any proof.

Same with the FIA, they did not bring to light anything from thier tests and checks either, on this revolutionary technology innovated in the Holy Grail of Motor Sport Innovation - F1!

Imagine what it could mean for road cars.. it could do a La Tesla like Emergency mode if people ran out of fuel!! Burn Oil

Good concept, But I dont think MB/Petronas are clever enough to have made it. If they did, surely someone would have proved it by now 😀

53

Either he is venting about the performance discrepancy between the Mercedes works and customer engines or he is trying to downplay the difference between all the engines on behalf of Mercedes in order to protect their advantage. In which case expect Massa to come forward in a couple of races time and say the same thing.

54

How do we know sitting on the sofa ?!
I'd say the Merc still looks like the Job in quali.
doesn't the aero level mask the engine performance somewhat? - if you engine has the grunt just ramp up the aero for better laptime; the merc is often not topping the speed trap...

55

In race trim, Ferrari, as a complete package, has surpassed Mercedes. Merc has their qualifying mode, but that doesn't give them enough margin to run off and hide as they have for the last three years. Q3 no longer guarantees them the win. But Renault, in Factory and customer form, isn't at that level.

I wonder what FI is playing at. It isn't just Checo. I saw Bob Fearnly quoted to the effect that they are in "damage limitation" mode until the European rounds, but they've gotten double top-ten finishes in every race so far and are likely to continue racking them up. Their midfield rivals have shown moments of greater ultimate pace (Haas and Williams especially), but haven't been able to get both cars to the flag, let alone with double points.

I don't know if I would go so far as to call it sandbagging, but FI are certainly downplaying both expectations and accomplishments. Team-scale Jedi mind tricks, I think, to lull their midfield rivals. Haas will be their most likely battler for fourth, as Haas has a quick car and two experienced drivers. STR, despite a strong driver pairing, will be held back some because the gap from Renault power to the Ferrari or Mercedes mills won't quite be closed this season. Stroll won't consistently put the second Williams into the points until he gets more experience, so Force India should stay ahead of Williams. The factory Renault squad needs more consistency from their drivers and they still have that power deficit to deal with. But Force India may have built a cushion to head that group for the season.

What the heck. As long as I'm ranting, let me go out on the limb and then take a saw to it with WCC predictions, top to bottom (first, the "sensible" version):

Mercedes
Ferrari
RBR
Force India
Haas
STR
Williams
Renault
Sauber
McLaren

Wackier:

Ferrari
M-B
Force India
RBR
Haas
STR
Williams
Renault
McLaren
Sauber

Wackiest:

Ferrari
M-B
FI
Haas
RBR
STR
McHonda
Williams
Sauber,

with McLaren getting double points starting this weekend.

And now I shall lay off decaf...

56

'Vettel says Merc. are favourite' That's the more relevant story.
Since testing, Hamilton has been saying Ferrari have an advantage, Vettel says Mercedes are favourites.
The results bear out Hamilton's assertion, but no-one is calling out Vettel.
That's a bit weird isn't it? Why is the press reporting Ferrari as the underdogs? The car is winning and they get an extra $100M to race with (or is it $95M I forget?)

I know, I sound bitter, but I'm right aren't I? Ferrari's car is faster/as fast (so not underdogs), and they get more money from F1(so not a fair contest).

Just sayin'

57

It's pretty clear that the Ferrari is the better race day car, which is the most important facet. Mercedes is better in qualifying, which stops Ferrari from just sauntering off at the start of races. Mercedes need to be near perfect, or need some good fortune, to keep the Ferrari behind.

Mercedes needs to find more race pace, and specifically better race pace on the softer compounds, to get the balance back in their favour.

58

'and they get more money from F1(so not a fair contest)'

Yes of course Mercedes have a comparatively microscopic war chest compared to the Italians...

59

The FIA ban on changing oil specification between qualifying and the race should eliminate the "oil burning" advantage. If I remember rightly, for 2017 teams are only allowed to use five fuel blends during the whole season. With two of those available during a race weekend. Up to this year an unlimited number of fuel blends was allowed. I'd like to see only one fuel blend used for the whole race weekend. Which may well eliminate even more of the unevenness between qualifying and race performance.

A question for James, do the Mercedes customer teams have access to the same fuel as the works team (Petronas)?

60

May be its a idea to fault the engine for the teams lack of performance. The same gig has been played by force india boss in other sports/business he has interest in. When ever the team does badly blame it on other factors. My only concern is why are the drivers getting into this dirty game ?

61

"...an advantage over Honda...", Heck my bycicle has a power advantage over the Honda engine...

62

Leaving aside a possibility teams helping each other for common, indisputable, good, overall trend to make F1 better show is undeniable - starting with capturing every smile in the paddock, talking about competitors being on each other tails ( in reality last 8 teams got in total same amount of points as leading team, 102 - this is including Red Bull! ) rotating drivers in other categories ( selling F1 to US and A ), flooding media with false narrative of heroing every day guys doing their thing, etc.

I already practice a stance not watching practice sessions and qualifying, as there are too many variables at play to get any accurate picture. I remember when it was unthinkable to skip qualifying.
Taking into account all the different manipulations and more there is a trend that soon it will be unbearable for me to inhale all the bull%%%, same time taking it serious.

Commenting about different topics here my stance comes from this idea.

63

The way I see it, Mercedes have the slightly faster car, but are very heavy on tyre wear in comparison to Ferrari (which has been the case since 2011). Cooler tracks will suit them - Australia and Bahrain already proved that (taking nothing from either Seb or Lewis' performances in those races - both were excellent), This all shapes up to be a 2008 style championship, in which certain tracks suit one or the other; to which only the driver can make up the deficit.

64

Check is only saying what many others have said. The Merc PU is still the best, but it now shares that position with Ferrari and their advantage over Renault has been reduced. I thought we already knew that...

65

But Mercedes still have that extreme mode in Q3 over Ferrari which they are relying on more than ever this season.

66

Nick, yes they do, but in the races there is nothing in it.

67

Actually, I am more or less with Sergio on this one. Mind you he didn't necessarily mean that Ferrari engine is a better but that it is on the same level as the one from Mercedes, which is more or less true. If you look at the situation from just few years ago (or even 2016), there was a clear advantage for a mid-grid team like Williams and FI to be on Mercedes power as shown by the results of these two teams in comparison to Toro Rosso in general, Haas last year or Williams being able to mix with Red Bull some seasons ago. This is not the case any more and this season you can say that a team like FI or Williams would not be worse off (or for that matter, not better either) if they were running Ferrari power units.

68

It reads like a well done me and well done Ferrari......I'm available next year please.

69

Hi James. Looks like Charlie has now answered your question.

Checo was probably just effectively repeating the FIA's conclusion that the Merc, Ferrari & Renault (& Tag Heuer!) PUs are within the 0.3s convergence target.

70

I love how Ferrari promote key personnel too soon in critical departments in the development of their F1 cars. In the long run, it's like shooting themselves in the foot.

71

I think Perez is preparing his self for a change of team, maybe Ferrari will take him next season if Kimi choose to retire, or Williams after Strollnaldo crash everything possible to... even Renault if Crylonzo wont go there...

But I don't really see FI be the future for Perez, he knows it and he want to go with a big team, deserve it of course and looks like last chances for him too.

72

I believe todays Ferrari pole and 2nd grid spot prove Sergio right.

73

We only have the advantage to Honda

Imagine his surprise when he finds Honda making a call to VJM and offering him 100 million a year to become the Primary Honda team if Mclaren go back to Mercedes! 😀

That honda sure needs a magical unicorn to surround it and the Pink FI is just perfect!

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