Mercedes has described the switch to a new fuel ahead of the latest F1 season as arguably the biggest rule change in the sport to affect the power units since the introduction of the turbo-hybrid era.
The focus for a considerable period of time going into the forthcoming campaign has been the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations and their effect on racing and overtaking.
Yet the change from E5 to E10 fuel has provided the teams and their suppliers - in Mercedes' case Petronas - with their most significant challenge following the arrival of the current power units in 2014.
The fuel now contains 10 per cent sustainable ethanol in comparison to previous years when the product comprised 5.75 per cent of bio components.
“As every year, when we're developing the fuel, it's a partnership between ourselves and Petronas to make sure the fuel is enjoying the PU experience, and the PU is enjoying the fuel experience,” said Hywel Thomas, managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains.
“The change this year to go to the E10 is probably the largest regulation change we've had since 2014.
“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.”
With the PU frozen from this year for the next four seasons ahead of the introduction of a new system from 2026, it is critical for Mercedes and the other manufacturers the new fuel does not cause issues.
The only changes that can be made on the PU once the season commences relate to reliability.
“There have been bio components in the fuel throughout the hybrid era," added Thomas. "What we had was a requirement to have 5.75 per cent by volume of bio components.
“The change this year is that percentage has gone up, it's gone up to 10 per cent. 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, what that means is the engine is going to react slightly differently to the fuel.
"So some areas of performance we're really, really happy with, and other areas where, honestly, we're less happy.
“And 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.”
You can watch Thomas speaking in Mercedes' latest video here...
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