Head of Mercedes’ engine department Andy Cowell says Honda, Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari are getting closer performance-wise.
In the Motorsport Magazine Podcast, Cowell talked about the competition between the Formula 1 engine manufacturers, especially Mercedes’ closest rivals Honda and Ferrari. Although Ferrari wasn’t on Mercedes’ level in the first part of the 2019 season, the Italian team managed to close the gap after the summer break, mostly due to significant engine gains.
“In terms of out-and-out qualifying performance, Ferrari this year have shown that their car is better, but you don’t get points on a Saturday, you get points on a Sunday in terms of finishing the race,” said Cowell.
Cowell was asked if Mercedes’ engine architecture is limiting its development potential compared to Ferrari.
“We work very hard with the team at Brackley to make sure the power unit contributes to the overall car performance.
“I don’t think the architecture Is holding us back. Every year we have a very open look at the way the power unit should be laid out.
“A lot of it is determined by the regulations in terms of where you can put the turbocharger – towards the front, sort of split across the crankcase like we have it, or in the back in the transmission.
“Typically, from an aerodynamic perspective you want to follow the shadow of the drivers’ helmet and the crash structures as around that.
“If the Ferrari qualifying performance is all down to crank power than we just need to work harder, we just need to find more crank power for those single laps in qualifying.
“What we mustn’t do is destroy the performance of the car on race day.
“The aerodynamicists and the vehicle dynamics guys have done a great job of making sure that the car is very kind to its tyres and can stretch well and can be raced hard.
“And the total car package in terms of reliability is a key aspect as well, as well as the tactics of the race and the management of the drivers.”
But in 2019, Ferrari wasn’t the only challenger to Mercedes. Honda has made significant gains in its engine development and, combined with Red Bull’s always competitive chassis and a star driver in Max Verstappen, posed a significant threat to the German team’s dominance.
With engine regulations remaining virtually the same in 2020, 2021 and beyond, Cowell thinks Red Bull can only get stronger.
“It is a good thing that the four manufacturers are getting one step closer together,” Cowell says.
“This is how Honda has improved the most this year, they are far ahead of Ferrari when it comes to development speed.
“Let’s have a good fight with the same rules before we come up with a new one for 2026.”
Cowell was asked if he thought Honda and Red Bull are actually the biggest threat to Mercedes.
“I think they are both impressive [Honda and Ferrari]. They have both owners who are keen to win and not just participate.
“In addition, Red Bull is able to build a championship-worthy car and Max Verstappen is also awesome. Quite a skilled boy, isn’t he?”
You can watch the full podcast below.
Source: Motorsport Magazine