Mercedes-AMG will launch anew mid- engined hypercar powered by a Formula 1 drivetrain in 2018.
The company’s retiring R&D boss, Thomas Weber, confirmed the new model on the eve of the Paris motor show.
The new Mercedes will challenge the Aston Martin and Red Bull-developed AM-RB 001. It will spearhead a growing Mercedes-AMG range that will expand by a further 10 models throughout 2017.
Mercedes-AMG’s closed, all-carbonfibre hypercar will be powered by the “entire current F1 powertrain”, according to officials, with drive going to all fourwheels.
This confirms a 1.6-litre petrol engine capacity and the use of both forms of energy recovery system found in modern F1 cars: the MGU-K, which converts mechanical and heat energy into electrical energy that can be stored for later deployment, and the MGU-H system, which takes heat from the exhaust and uses it to create electrical energy.
The90deg V6 engine will be given new software and some new long-life components, but it is otherwise from the F1 car.
“The F1 regulations have really helped us,” said AMG boss Tobias Moers. “The focus on reliability with the engine regulations in particular mean we can take the F1 unit and engineer it for road use.”
Moers said deliveries will begin in “two years, two and a half at most”. A two-stage unveiling is planned at the Geneva and Frankfurt motor shows next year.
Moers said the powertrain will need to be detuned slightly from its current F1 specification but not by as much as some might think. “Our F1 engine is far more durable than many people expect, and if you look at the load it must take in an F1 race compared to how it’s likely to be used in a street-legal machine, you can see it’s going to have a lot less work to do.”
The combined output of the electric motors and enginewill be in excess of 1000bhp in the road car and the enginewill rev to more than 10,000rpm.
Two more vexing problems are making the engine emissions compliant and choosing what kind of gearbox to use, because an F1 transmission would need to be heavily adapted for road-going use. Indeed, the F1 car’s electric motor revs way beyond the 12,000rpm of typical electric motors in hybrid hypercars.
Mercedes does not have any running prototypes yet but said development has been going on “for some time”. Moers also confirmed FI’s Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will join the team of development drivers “when the time is right”. The firm is targeting a Nurburgring time of 6min 12sec, which would be a record.
Mercedes board member Ola Kallenius confirmed the engine will be developed by the same Brixworth-based factory that makes Mercedes’ F1 engines. Kallenius emphasised that despite its hardcore nature, the car will be able to be driven on the road and will not be a track- only special edition.
The project started in spring 2015, after a conversation between Moers and Mercedes F1 engine boss Andy Cowell, and was given the production green light in March.
The car’s body will be styled around a carbonfibre monocoque similar to that used in F1, with software and technology harnessed from Mercedes’ F1W07 racer. A price of around £3 million has been mooted. Production will be limited to 200 to 300 cars.
Lotus is also rumoured to be involved, especially in relation to the chassis set-up, although neither Mercedes nor Lotus has confirmed any partnership.
MERCEDES NEEDS F1 LINK
Mercedes clearly needed a hook to sell its new hypercar, given that even its bosses know the brand is not associated with supercars, let alone limited-edition million-pound motors, in the same way as McLaren, Porsche and Ferrari.
A unique selling point is provided by that powertrain. Will it matter that it displaces just 1.6 litres and has a mere six cylinders? Will it hell. What will matter is that this will be the world’s first road car powered by a genuine Formula 1 engine. Even among hypercars, it is unique.
This is made possible by the hybrid systems it carries. Before hybrid tech, F1 engines were tuned to within an inch of their lives to generate maximum power, but today that’s not the case: they have to last quite a long time in racing terms and don’t even spin that fast. Sure, 15,000rpm sounds a lot in road car terms, but it’s nothing in F1 circles. Normally aspirated F1 engines were hitting 20,000rpm on the bench at the turn of the century.
So will Merc’s hypercar sell? They’ll have to be careful with production numbers, but as the Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren hypercars all sold out, I don’t see why this one won’t, too.
It may not have the name, but it has the indisputable link to F1. And to enough people with enough money, that will prove too tempting.