Mercedes has revealed that its power unit is now producing in excess of 900bhp and engine boss Andy Cowell has no reason to believe its development rate will slow in the next few years.
Mercedes has dominated Formula One since the introduction of the current regulations in 2014 and for most of that period it has held a significant power advantage over its rivals. In a presentation to media at the team's engine factory in Brixworth this week, Cowell explained that the current 1.6-litre V6 turbo hybrid is now producing more power than Mercedes' 3.0-litre V10 engine of 2005.
"It's the most powerful Formula One engine [we've made] with over 900bhp," Cowell explained. "It's pretty good going from this little nimble 1.6 litre engine, but that power has been created because the efficiency has changed. We've got road-car technologies in there and new emerging technologies are in there with regard to the MGU-H."
Under the current engine formula, the fuel-flow rate is limited meaning efficiency is the key to unlocking power from the engine. Cowell revealed that the Mercedes power unit is now achieving more than 45 percent thermal efficiency -- i.e. 45 percent of the potential energy in the fuel is delivered to the crankshaft -- and efficiency of more than 50 percent when the ERS is operating at full power.
By comparison, the V8 engines pre-2014 achieved thermal efficiency of 29 percent and the first iteration of the Mercedes V6 turbo in 2014 managed 40 percent thermal efficiency. Cowell sees no reason why similar gains in efficiency, and therefore power, cannot be made in 2016 and beyond.
"Thermal efficiency is going up from where we were in 2014, with a good step up for 2015," he said. "Perhaps it is going to go up in 2016 and it's definitely going to go up in the future because nobody has said we have reached the limit here. When I walk around the factory I never hear people say that it's the best we can do or is optimum.
"Does it get harder to find big gains? Yes it does, but there are lots of areas where small gains will come. It's a little bit like gold mining when you work bloody hard to get lots of dust and every now and again you get a nice big nugget that makes you smile. We still find those nuggets.
"We have made some huge gains in the last years as we have done the development and we have made good gains with the last two years of racing. I don't see that stopping and I don't think anybody here thinks we have reached the limit. Where we are at today with our thermal efficiency is mind-blowing when you look at it, and if we can apply that into the road car world without losing that high efficiency then it will be tremendous for the road car world."