Mercedes power unit boss, Hywel Thomas says the move to E10 fuel this season is the biggest change to the regulations since the introduction of the hybrid era in 2014.
The overhaul of the rules regarding aerodynamics; front wings, rear wings, ground effect from the undersides, engine freeze and 18-inch tyres might have grabbed the headlines, but Hywel Thomas, boss at Mercedes HPP believes it is the move to E10 sustainable fuel that represents the biggest challenge.
F1 wants the next generation of power unit, due to be introduced in 2026, to be powered by 100% sustainable ‘drop-in fuel’ in order to achieve the sport’s goal of being net zero carbon by 2030.
In the meantime, this year sees the move to E10 fuel, a mixture of 90% fossil fuel and 10% ethanol and all four manufacturers have expressed concern, particularly in terms of combustion. Indeed, the move to E10 was one of the main factors Red Bull was keen to keep Honda’s engineers and their know-how on-board.
“As in every year, when we’re developing the fuel, it’s a partnership between ourselves and Petronas to make sure that the fuel is enjoying the PU experience, and the PU is enjoying the fuel experience,” explains Thomas in a team video.
“The change this year to go into the E10 is probably the largest regulation change we’ve had since 2014,” her continues. “So it was a sizeable undertaking to make sure that we really developed that fuel, and the number of candidates that we had, the single cylinder running, the V6 running, it shouldn’t be underestimated how much work that took.
“There have been bio components in the fuel throughout the hybrid era,” he makes clear. “What we had was a requirement to have 5.75% by volume of bio components.
“The change this year is that percentage has gone up, it’s gone up to 10%, and also, instead of it being open what bio components you use, you’ve had to use ethanol.
“So the change to the bio content to being ethanol means the engine is going to react slightly differently to the fuel. So there are some areas of performance we’re really, really happy with, and other areas where honestly we’re less happy,” he admits.
“What we have to do is change the fuel where we can, and change the hardware of the PU where we can, in order to maximise the effects of the things we do like, and minimise the effects of the things we don’t.”