After Lewis Hamilton’s “party mode” comment drew a lot of attention and Red Bull boss called for limiting engine modes in qualifying races, Mercedes has come forth to explain various engine modes used in its new car, the W09.
While conducting the pre-season testing, Hamilton jokingly said one of the new modes should be called the ‘party mode’ as it gave a speed boost that was enjoyable.
When the Brit won the pole position, staying six-tenths ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull, it brought in an avalanche of comments. The paddock was filled with rumours about the special Q3 mode that Hamilton had used to get a boost. No one believed (except Mercedes) the British racer when he said he did not change the engine modes between Q2 and Q3.
According to Mercedes, they use one mode for the majority part of each practice session, qualifying and the actual race. They also use another powerful mode that is used “according to the competitive context” and “sometimes this qualifying mode will be used throughout qualifying, sometimes only in Q3”.
How the modes work
Since the introduction of the hybrid engine, an F1 power unit comprises the internal combustion engine (ICE), turbo, MGU-K and MGU-H, control electronics and energy store.
Mercedes, like any other manufacturer, uses multiple combinations to achieve different output levels. As an example, ICE performance can be improved by injecting more fuel or changing the ignition timing or by modifying how its MGU-K and MGU-H can recover and deploy electrical energy.
The three modes that Mercedes defines use different settings to impact how the MGU-K and MGU-H recover or deploy energy. For example, they consider the race start as the best time for a “full deployment”.
During the practice runs and in some parts of the grand prix race, Mercedes uses the “recovery energy management mode” during the grand prix as it balances “ballsy on-track passing and tactical strategy” This is known as the Conservation mode.
In the Australian GP both the German outfit’s drivers experienced overheating and turned down their engines to manage its performance. A similar tactic is used during safety car deployments.
When using the higher power mode, the drivers are given a specific mileage allocation to reduce the chances of damaging the engines. Since the whole season has to run on three engines, limitations have been placed on how often and for how long the power modes can be used.
The “phase document” dictates the mileage limitations that the works teams and the customer teams like Williams and Force India should follow during each race weekend to optimise the engine’s life.
As per Mercedes calculation, the fourth race of the season at Azerbaijan is the first “power-sensitive” track as it is “dominated by long straights and acceleration zones”.
Mercedes said: “it will be interesting to see how the storyline around engine modes develops as the season progresses, particularly when F1 reaches those more power-sensitive venues”.