2014’s F1 W05 Hybrid is arguably the most successful racing car ever. It scored 16 wins from 19 races, versus the McLaren MP4/4’s 15 victories from 16 in 1988, or Ferrari’s F2002 which won 14 of the 15 races it competed in during 2002, in the midst of Michael Schumacher’s imperial phase.
The W05 also made pole 18 times, locked out the front row 11 times, and had the same number of one-two finishes. Such a performance in the frenzied cauldron of contemporary F1 is a mind-blowing achievement. In fact, so thoroughly has Merc conquered the complexities of the turbo hybrid era that even now, what feels like hundreds of races later, its key rivals are still scratching around for a solution.
It’s rare to have the opportunity, but we were present at key stages during the development and debut of the W05. Merc’s High-Performance Powertrain division, tucked away near the village of Brixworth in Northamptonshire, is where the power unit magic happens, and there could be no better tour guide than engineering director Andy Cowell. He showed us a supercomputer, overseen by 20 experts running constant simulations, measuring the variables and optimising the engine’s envelope depending on the circuit. They are tested to the point of destruction; they were simulating Spa on the day of our visit.
F1 began using KERS (Kinetic Energy Regeneration System) in 2008, a technology originally supplied and honed by Merc. The