Mercedes High-Performance Powertrains Managing Director Hywel Thomas attended the Belgian Grand Prix Saturday Press Conference. Here is the full transcript.
Q: While we’re talking ’26, Hywel, can I bring you in please. As an established manufacturer in Formula 1, what are the changes for ’26 mean for you?
Hywel THOMAS: The changes for ’26 are still quite broad. It’s a whole new power unit. We look forward to the challenge and are excited by it. The increase in the electrification of the power unit, the increase in the size of what up until now has been the MGU-K, that’s, that’s going to be hugely important and very different, and links well to what is going on in the road car environment. And then, of course, to go with that the sort of reduction in output of the combustion engine, but the conversion over to running with sustainable fuel, is going to be another challenge. And that fuel challenge is going to be it’s going to be a big part of this regulation set. And very, very important that we are we are approaching those environmental issues at a good time for the sport and for everybody.
Q: And how much of HPP is focusing on 2026 now?
HT: Well, we’ve got a project team working on 2026. We continue to push very hard in our existing programmes as well. We’ve got a couple of projects coming to an end such as the Formula E, which means we’re able to move some other people over to the 2026 programme, which is exciting. And really, as the one of the things with the current regulations are the regulations between now and 2026. They very much encouraged us to reduce the amount of engineering and the amount of business that is working on the existing product, by reducing things like the dyno hours, so it’s a bit of a moveable feast. We’ve got a good-sized project team already working on it and have done for a little while, as I’m sure everybody has. And as we go forward, we’re going to have to move more across because, as Christian says, although 2026 seems a long way away, it’s going to very quickly approach.
Q: Hywel, coming back to you. Can we get your reaction to the news that Audi will be entering the sport in ’26 please?
HT: It’s clearly very, very exciting. There was a large part of the regulation discussion which was about making sure that we did have a set of regulations that did knock down some of those barriers to entry. So, it’s fantastic to have got to the end of that process and realise that we have knocked down those barriers so that we can get some to new entrants. And of course, we’ll look forward with, with great excitement to competing against them, because they’re going to be formidable characters, and they’re going to be a formidable team for us to compete with. And that’s what we look forward to, in any competition.
Q: And Hywel, looking at the 2022 season as a whole, it’s been a tough one for you guys, no doubt. Can you give us some insight into how you face the challenges of this year at Brixworth?
HT: I think at Brixworth, I think we’ve probably faced it in a very similar way to the way that the team has in Brackley, which is that you’ve just got to get your head down. You’ve got to be able to understand where there are opportunities for you. And of course, we know with the PU being frozen from a hardware perspective, there aren’t very many opportunities, but you’ve got to look for those opportunities. And you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to look after your reliability. And just keep your head down and just keep doing the things that you’ve done well over the previous years that have been successful, and just keep going. That’s how we’ve approached it.
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QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Hywel, you spoke about the fact that it’s a completely new power unit, but I believe that a lot has been carried over, certainly on the ICE side for the new regulations. And then you spoke about lowering the barriers to entry. So the question is, how much can actually be carried over? And then to Christian, have the barriers to entry actually been lowered sufficiently to make it attractive? I know that you’re still looking at your programme, but has it been diluted in any way?
HT: In terms of carryover, the lower half… there’s a non-competition part of the internal combustion engine. And the regulations in there are pretty tight in terms of some of the dimensions, some of the technologies that can used, some of the materials. And they match pretty closely to what we are currently racing. So, there’s a big carryover in those sort of technology areas. But it’s not actual carryover, if that makes sense. Because although our componentry is very close to what is now in the regulations, it isn’t exactly the same. So, there’s very much… the combustion engine is split into a competition half and a non-competition half and the non-competition half is very, very similar, but not quite carryover. I hope that makes sense.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) A question to Christian but also to Hywel, from the Mercedes point of view. You’ve talked a little bit, Christian, about what you have been able to build at Red Bull Powertrains so far, but without the concrete 2026 regs how restricted were you with what you were able to prepare? And what does having these 2026 regs unlock in terms of developing and I would just like Hywel’s point of view as well, from an established manufacturer’s perspective?
HT: Yes, very similar comments to those made by Christian, to be honest with you. We’ve been able to do our early development work based on knowledge that we’ve got from participating in all the discussions up to now. We had the framework document released at the end of last year, which gives us huge clues, technically, and we’ve participated in the other forums. So, whilst there are changes that have come in at the last minute, and that’s always the case, the way you get ahead is to take what you’ve got and do the best with it. And that’s exactly what we’ve done in I’m sure the same way that all the manufacturers that already knew will have done.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) I’m just wondering, now we know about Audi and things like that and the new regulations that are coming in, how difficult will it be for a new manufacturer coming into the new 2026 engine regulations to kind of get up to speed and especially be competitive against the existing suppliers as well? I know, Christian, Red Bull have got their own power train thing coming in for 2026. But I just wonder how difficult will be for a team like Audi?
HT: Clearly, I don’t work at Audi so difficult for me to exactly say, but the companies that are coming in… Someone like Audi is not new to making combustion engines, they’re not new to making racing engines, and they’re not new to electrical racing. So whilst I’m sure there will be a lot of new technology, a lot of differences. They’ll have, I’m sure, a very capable engineering team and a very capable operations team to back that up. And yeah, it’s going to be tough, but then it’ll be tough for all of us. We’ve all got the same constraints in terms of the cost cap. We’ve all got the same constraints for physics. And I’m sure the engineering teams of all the groups will be looking at these regulations with a lot of excitement, and with a lot of plans of how they’re going to exploit them.