Following a delay at the request of Honda and Mercedes, a ban on dedicated qualifying engine modes, or for that matter, the use of various modes throughout a race, will come into force at this weekend’s Monza GP.
The rule change, implemented via a technical directive (#37), is draconian. Teams will be permitted a single power unit mode for both qualifying and the race, the only exception being a temporary mode switch through the use of an overtake button. This rule change has far reaching consequences, and will not simply outlaw ‘party’ modes in qualifying.
Throughout the course of a race, teams have to date varied the deployment of energy from the PU, depending on factors such as overall race strategy, fuel load and where the PU or individual components are in their lifecycle. With just one mode available, engine manufacturers will have to find the best compromise between performance and reliability.
The differences between modes can be substantial, with one technical director noting earlier in the year that hitting the overtake button netted a three-figure horsepower gain. However, despite the rule being formulated to try and close up the field, it will likely still benefit manufactures that are further ahead in their development curves.
As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff alluded to when the change was first announced, without the option of running high-power modes for certain stints of the race (with the related component wear factored into the overall PU life requirements), there is potential to simply run at a higher output (though not maximum) for a full race distance. Inevitably, the sustainable power output will be greater for some manufacturers than others.
Here, Hywel Thomas, managing director at Mercedes HPP, explains the significance of the changes.