Ever since its introduction in 2014, the current F1 engine formula has been dominated by the success of Mercedes-Benz AMG. Not only have the team won every championship since then, but Mercedes’ customers have dominated the midfield, too, leaving the customer Renault, Ferrari, and Honda powered teams well in the dust. How did MB get their engine to make so much more power than everyone else? If you believe the pit lane rumors, it’s simple: Mercedes is burning engine oil as fuel.
Rumors of Mercedes burning engine oil as fuel in a bit to circumvent the sport’s 105 kg/hr fuel use limit began circulating earlier this season, when Ferrari and Renault again failed to match the Silver Arrows cars on power. Violating the fuel flow rule, you’ll remember, got Daniel Ricciardo disqualified from the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.
It’s safe to say, then, that the FIA takes the fuel flow rules seriously. They take lots of rules seriously, in fact. They love rules! That’s why, instead of challenging the Silver Arrows directly, the FIA chose to address the break in the spirit of their rules with a new, letter-heavy rule that targeted Mercedes’ advantage with extreme prejudice.
The FIA passed a new rule regulating engine oil consumption. The new regulations limited oil use at 0.9 liters per 100 km of racing, with the engine’s oil carefully measured before and after each race to enforce compliance. Engines introduced prior to the race in Belgium, however, would be allowed slightly higher consumption, at 1.2 liters per 100 km- and that’s where Mercedes struck. Ryan Ashenhurst explains it well, writing that “Mercedes took advantage of this and introduced their update at the right time, meaning for the rest of the season, they will have a 0.3 liter oil burn per 100km advantage over Ferrari, who, along with every other team on the grid (including Mercedes customer teams), will only be allowed to burn 0.9 liters until the end of the season.”
In addition to adding combustible material for the engine to burn, the oil that gets into the cylinder can act as a coolant- as it does in 2 stroke engines. That 0.3 liters of difference means the Mercedes has 33% more coolant entering its cylinders, or 33% more fuel to burn, depending on how you look at it. That might be why the team has seemed to have a 2017 season-long edge every Saturday in qualifying: they can push the engine that much harder than everyone else without fear of overheating.
All good food for thought for Formula 1 fans. So good, in fact, that the super geniuses over at Autosport put together an awesome video explaining the whys and hows of Mercedes’ burning oil to make more power. You can check that out, below, then let us know what you think of the oil burning “controversy” in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Autosport | How F1 Teams Burn Oil to Make More Power