Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell believes letting drivers push power units to the limit would not have a positive impact on racing.
The move to reduce the number of power units that have to last a complete season – from four in 2017 to three internal combustion engines (ICE), turbochargers and MGU-H, and two of the MGU-K, energy store and control electronics – has come in for criticism from some quarters. Lewis Hamilton was one driver who was opposed to the rule change after charging through the field with a fresh power unit in Brazil last year, but Cowell – who is head of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains – says allowing drivers to push harder would lead to similar racing.
“I don’t think it would make any difference,” Cowell told RACER when asked if running the power unit flat out would have an impact on racing. “If it was one engine for Saturday and Sunday and you’ve only got to do 600km, then we’d be running flat-out for longer, our prove-out would be different but our safety margin to our vulnerabilities would be the same.
“So the risk of failure would be largely the same and we’d still be sat down with Lewis saying, ‘Whoa, you know what? Here’s a vulnerability when we run like this.’ Because you’d run it hotter, you’d run it hotter so the cooling on the car could be less, and that very quickly gets you into trouble and bits start failing.
“The relative performance I suspect would be exactly the same as it was in Abu Dhabi. All that would happen would be that costs would go up.”
Cowell believes the current regulations are necessary with six teams having to purchase power units from only four manufacturers.
“I think the reason why it was introduced, the restrictions on the number of engines per weekend – initially it was one per weekend, then it was two weekends and then it’s so many per championship – was purely financial,” he said. “It has had a very positive impact on the financial situation, and the whole reason for going to four last year and then three this year was purely that financial cost of production and therefore the cost involved in supplying to a customer team. There are more customer teams than there are works teams, so that’s the reason why, and it is a very effective way of doing it.”