Motorsports

Mercedes denies Cowell absence behind F1 engine struggles

The world champion outfit is facing a difficult end to the 2021 campaign as it juggles concerns about the durability of its internal combustion engines (ICE).

Valtteri Bottas is already on to his sixth ICE of the season, and Mercedes says there are no guarantees that Lewis Hamilton will make it through to the end of the season without needing to take a fifth one.

While that would trigger a grid drop for the Briton, Mercedes’ biggest worry is that if an engine does fail in a race then that could be enough to wreck his F1 title hopes completely.

The situation that Mercedes faces with reliability is one of the most difficult it has endured in the turbo hybrid era, and comes at a time when it is without one of the key architects of its world championship success.

For Cowell, who led Mercedes’ High Performance Powertrains division and helped produce its benchmark F1 engines, left the company in the middle of last year.

There have been suggestions that the Mercedes struggles have been made worse because of Cowell’s absence, but team boss Toto Wolff insists that is not the case.

For he says that Cowell’s replacement, Hywel Thomas, has huge experience, having worked as part of the Mercedes engine team since 2004.

Speaking about the situation, Wolff said: “The strength of the organisation is its depth. Andy is clearly an exceptional personality that contributed in his day, but so is Hywel, and everybody besides him.

“I have 100 percent confidence in the structure that we have today. Engine developments are not something that happens overnight. It has a long lead time when things go right or things go wrong.

“Andy was a massive part of our past success but so was Hywel and everybody else. So I don’t think you can pinpoint it to one of the leaders having decided to leave the organization. They’re still really profound strengths within the organisation.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport and Andy Cowell, Managing Director, Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Despite the confidence over Mercedes’ current engine division, Wolff conceded earlier in the Austin weekend that it was going through a difficult time – especially because it was supplying three customer teams as well as its own works effort.

“I think you can see that we are suffering with reliability this year,” he said. “We’re going onto the sixth engine – I believe it is for Valtteri – and it’s not something that we choose to do.

“On the contrary, we’re trying to really get on top of the problems, and we haven’t understood fully. I think we are a step closer now, so it’s not that we are always, literally, easy with having the engines. We’re hanging on for dear life supplying all customers, and that is not trivial.”

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