[ Posted by Danny Herbert on DriveTribe, 13th September 2021 ]
Formula 1’s next-gen power units originally earmarked to be introduced for the 2025 season are now set to arrive in 2026, a year later than currently scheduled.
The new power units are intended to further prioritise sustainability and efficiency whilst increasing the formula’s road relevance – something in which the current regulations seem to drastically lack through extreme expense and complexity.
It has emerged that not only Red Bull, but now arch rivals Mercedes have been persuaded to assist the quest of encouraging a major manufacturer into the sport, by discussing the alternative options if the MGU-H component of the power unit was to be dropped.
The MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit – Heat) generates electricity from the thermal energy of the gases spinning the turbine of the turbocharger. The electricity generated can subsequently be moved into the battery and re-deployed.
The major manufacturer reportedly the most interested in an F1 program is the Volkswagen AG Group. The group was famously represented by two of its brand’s leaders at a crucial meeting at the Austrian Grand Prix in July – Porsche CEO Oliver Blume and Audi CEO Markus Duesmann attended the meeting to discuss the overview of options on the table.
Read more about this and the Volkswagen Group itself below.
It was reported earlier in the year that Volkswagen are keen for the power unit’s electrical output to increase by as much as possible, and this is one of the major taking points in present meetings. The removal of the MGU-H would dramatically increase the likelihood of talks ensuing in a VW F1 programme.
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has stated “the MGU-H is going to be dropped [but only] if we can find alignment of many other points.
“I think it’s a compromise that, I can’t speak for anybody else, but at Mercedes, we are prepared to enter in order to facilitate the entry of the Volkswagen Group.”
Seeking “alignment,” Toto Wolff clearly wants a definitive answer from Volkswagen and perhaps even Red Bull and Christian Horner. Honda’s shock decision to exit F1 at the end of 2021 has left Red Bull picking up the pieces through its emergency Red Bull Powertrains division now set to take over the Honda IP’s.
Another factor in Wolff’s desire for “alignment” is the potential of F1 giving specific dispensations to incoming groups such as Volkswagen, to effectively give them a leg-up financially. From the sport’s perspective it is probably necessary to avoid a repeat of the first three years of Honda’s disastrous return to the sport with McLaren, where poor reliability and performance plagued both outfits.
COULD RED BULL-VOLKSWAGEN REALLY HAPPEN?
Toto Wolff hinted earlier in the year at the likelihood of the Red Bull Powertrains division being handed over to an incumbent Volkswagen Group entry, believing it’s only “logical” for Red Bull to consider it.
On one hand Red Bull of all teams should be against any drastic changes like the MGU-H removal, just because of the unproven nature of its brand new Powertrains division. Any drastic change could severely hamper the progress of both Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri as its collective expertise will be less experienced at developing into the unknown than Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari – even if it can poach high-level engineers.
To eliminate the MGU-H, entirely new power units would need to be created.
But Red Bull believe the other manufacturers would have a head start with the new rules if the MGU-H was permitted. In principle, Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari have a better understanding of the units.
Therefore Christian Horner feels F1 should approach the new power unit regulations with a “clean sheet” and take the opportunity to reduce costs and complexity.
It looks as though a Red Bull-Volkswagen partnership is surely imminent, but in what exact form remains to be seen. This partnership is logical, as Toto Wolff said, as it allows Volkswagen to satisfy it’s F1 itch while sharing out the cost and utilising the technology.
Reports suggest Red Bull Powertrains would also be keen to supply a customer team, and perhaps the pieces have inadvertently fallen into place in the last week. As Red Bull quickly managed to deposit its third driver, Alex Albon, in the Williams team.
Williams CEO and Team Principal Jost Capito and Technical Director Francois-Xavier Demaison are incidentally both former Volkswagen Motorsport executives.
Eventhough Williams seems to be getting closer to Mercedes in recent years (the team will soon purchase Mercedes gearboxes alongside its power units), Capito insists he doesn’t want the team to become a Mercedes B-team.
Perhaps Red Bull is ambitiously attempting to align its political stars for a Red Bull-Volkswagen partnership powered by in-house power units whilst providing a form of works deal to Williams?
The Williams rumours are definitely weaker, but the Red Bull-Volkswagen rumours simply keep gaining strength.
The next-gen regulations structure is soon to be finalised by the working group involving the major parties within and outside the sport. And if unanimous agreement isn’t achieved, then it’ll be solely down to F1 and the FIA to come up with and impose the rules without consulting any other party.