- Mercedes’ chief designer John Owen tells The Race that not only was Cowell “very brave to indulge in the packaging” of the turbo-hybrid engine, he also had an ingenious but labour-intensive idea for the process.
“What he did is design three engines, effectively,” says Owen. “I think it weighed 250 kilos from memory, the first one. And it was an engine that was almost unbreakable. That was just there to understand performance development.
“He then made another engine that was very fragile, which was going to be the reliability engine, where they didn’t do much performance work.
“And then the third engine was kind of a marriage between the two of them, which is the one we took racing.
“Hats off to Brixworth for a very clever strategy there, I think they found a really, really good way of doing it. We heard other teams sort of tried to build their power unit for both performance and reliability and suffered the problems of lots of time spent with the engine broken and not being able to develop it.
“That was a really good call that they made. That’s why we were good on that side.”
This is the first part in a great two-parter on how Mercedes came to dominate the current V6 turbo-hybrid formula. Part two explains how hype surrounding the Brixworth engine for a long time hid the fact that the Brackley chassis was just as good.
It's interesting to think about how this chain of events was ultimately kicked off by Honda's surprise exit from F1 in 2008, which spawned Brawn GP that won the 2009 season and was then bought by Mercedes (if anyone's interested in this, the F1 podcast Beyond the Grid has some great interviews with team owner Ross Brawn and 2009 world champion Jenson Button about the weird 2009 season).
Honda is once again leaving F1 at the end of next season, who knows what butterfly effects that might have on the sport in the years to come.