Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell says their dominance is 'a brilliant surprise'
Silver Arrows looking to maintain 100 per cent record in Montreal
By Mike Wise. Last Updated: 03/06/14 8:38am
Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell says their dominance of F1's new era, which they'll be seeking to maintain at this weekend's Canadian GP, has come as a "brilliant surprise".
The Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are once again expected to lead from the front in Montreal on a track, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, that should also highlight the power advantage of Mercedes' hybrid engine.
Its superiority over those produced by Ferrari and Renault had been widely expected before the season but according to Cowell, staff at Mercedes AMG High-Performance Powertrains' facility in Brixworth took nothing for granted.
"It's a brilliant surprise," he told Sky Sports Online. "You put all your effort into coming up with something that's as fast as possible but you don't know where you are against your opponent until the first race."
The design of Mercedes' PU106A power unit has been crucial in the advantage the team currently enjoy - specifically the decision to separate the turbocharger's compressor from its turbine.
By placing the compressor at the front of the V6 engine block instead of alongside the turbine at the rear by the exhausts, Mercedes have cut turbo lag, with hybrid power therefore used more efficiently.
It has also brought aerodynamic and handling benefits to Mercedes' own W05 car. But even though the idea seems simple with hindsight, Cowell said there was no 'Eureka' moment.
"It was an idea that came out of the group of people that sat down and laid the engine out," he said. "It was a mixture of people from the engine side, chassis side, programme managers - the whole works group of people.
"A meeting with eight to ten people there, just working through ideas: What could we do? What would this mean? What would this give us? And then brainstorming."
In contrast, Renault and to a lesser extent Ferrari, have both adopted more conventional designs. Yet however much Mercedes are reaping the rewards now, Cowell said that perfecting the power unit has not been without its headaches.
"You come up with ideas and you weigh it," he said. "It's never all positive with an idea, there are positives and negatives, it's rarely all positive. And then you just work through it and see what you can do to mitigate the negatives and what you can do to measure to make sure that the positive is really a positive.
"The negative is that it's different. If it's different, it's new and pioneers often have a challenging time. You have to keep pushing if you have problems."
With Mercedes starting work on the design almost three years ago, Cowell also said they'd had little time to try and work out what the opposition was up to.
"We just pushed on with our project. We weren't looking at what others were doing. We still haven't really paid a lot of attention to what they're doing, we just get on," he added.
"There's three power units, they're all quite different - which is the good thing about a new set of regulations."