March 19, 2014 By C! Magazine Staff

Hybrid thoroughbred takes year’s first Grand Prix

In a Formula One first, the winning car of the Australia Grand Prix–the first race of the year and first under new fuel budget rules–is a hybrid.

In a Formula One first, the winning car of the Australia Grand Prix–the first race of the year and first under new fuel budget rules–is a hybrid.  The car, the new Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W05 that Nico Rosberg raced to victory, no longer uses a mere engine to roar through chicanes and straightaways, but instead brandishes a power unit.  Its PU106A hybrid power unit combines a turbocharged direct injection V6 engine with an advanced energy recovery system that itself generates more horsepower than does a typical sedan.

With this year’s fuel budget cut by a third from 150 down to 100 kilograms under Formula One racing rules, constructors have had to downsize powerplants dramatically.  Where you’d have found a two to three-litre V8 maxing at 18,000RPM in the engine bay before, you might find a one to two-litre V6 already straining at 15,000RPM.

To recover old power lost to new rules, Mercedes-Benz worked with Petronas to  engineer a powerplant that leaves no energy source unused. Hot exhaust gases drive a turbocharger which blows through an intercooler to compress engine air intake while pushing up fuel injection pressure.  On the electric side, kinetic energy from turbocharger and brakes is harnessed to charge on-board batteries through generators that flip-flop into motors which then boost power even more.  The combination, to Mercedes-Benz rivals, was murderous.

Though problems again prevented a two-car finish this year, Mercedes AMG Petronas made a dramatic improvement over their showing last year at Albert Park.  Last year, Rosberg had to retire mid-race because of an electrical problem with his V8 engine while team mate Lewis Hamilton took his third place start to a fifth place finish.  This year, it was Hamilton who had to retire after two laps because of a misfiring cylinder in the hybrid power unit’s V6, while Rosberg himself started in third place but then led throughout most of the race, making some observers call it akin to a procession.  Rosberg candidly said how he did it when, right after taking the chequered flag, he shouted “what a car!”

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