Mercedes accepts 'step backwards' in F1 engine tech for 2021

MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Mercedes has agreed to Formula One's plans to ditch the MGU-H from the existing power units as part of a wider plan to improve the spectacle of the sport.

The MGU-H recovers heat energy from the turbo and can be used to control the speed of the turbo's compressor to combat turbo-lag. The technology is the most advanced element of the current F1 engines and represents an avenue for development in turbocharged internal combustion engines for road cars too.

However, in an attempt to make the existing engines cheaper, more powerful and noisier for 2021, F1 has not included the MGU-H in the package of rules it proposed to the teams in April at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault initially baulked at the idea of stripping the MGU-H from the existing engines, but following a meeting of all teams, the FIA and F1's owners on Friday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his team was ready to make a concession.

"We have given up on some of the stand points," he said. "We have accepted to lose the MGU-H. We think in terms of technology it is a step backwards but in terms of achieving compromise for the benefit of the spectacle, the MGU-H going, the revs going up, the fuel limitations going -- I think we will have a louder engine, we will not be so limited by fuel...

"It's not the most sustainable message we are sending out but we can understand from a spectacle standpoint it is something you need to consider and accept."

Since the current turbo-hybrid regulations were introduced in 2014, Mercedes has mastered the complex MGU-H technology and its engine has been the class of the field. It has also pushed a marketing message based on efficiency around its F1 success and developed its V6 turbo to power the recently-launched Project One road car. Wolff said he fought hard in F1's Strategy Group meetings to keep the engines relevant to road car technology and refused to accept a complete lift on fuel flow restrictions.

"I had a bit of a moment in the Strategy Group," Wolff said. "I had one major one where I needed to speak to my anger management psychologist, when we talked about getting rid of all fuel-flow limitations that we have, all fuel allowances and just completely open it up from the get-go now.

"I think we cannot close our eyes to what's happening in the world. Hybrid energy recovery systems happen on road cars, they need to happen in Formula One in my opinion, but equally we have to understand what the fan is interested in.

"It needs the technology message, it cannot go without the technology message in Formula One, but it needs to be at the level where we recognise the spectacle is important and shocking your senses with an engine sound is something where we can improve."

The FIA is planning to announce the 2021 engine regulations by June in order to give existing and potential manufacturers the necessary development time. But Wolff said it would be important to ensure costs are kept under control.

"So on most of the topics we have found an agreement. There is a discussion around dyno limitations, we don't want to continue to out-grow each other with more infrastructure. So on the engine regulations we are pretty close at being able to tick the box.

"The only major thing we need to solve is that we are still spending a lot on engine development and what we need to avoid over is double-spending over the next years, continuing to develop the current engine and then also doing the new one."

Agreement over the MGU-H removes a major stumbling block facing Formula One's plan for the future and Wolff also reported progress over the inclusion of a cost cap in the regulations after 2021.

"This was a very good point where Liberty recognised that a cost cap cannot be an event but needs to be a process. It needs to go over several years and it needs to consider the various structures that have been put in place, they are taking our feedback on board and it is clear that we will all be protecting our structures in a way -- we have all expressed that to them."