Mercedes targets big token spend before Melbourne
Mercedes is planning to spend as many performance tokens on its new power unit as it can ahead of the first race of the season in just over two weeks.
The token system
- In order to keep costs under control, performance upgrades to power units are limited each season under a token system. Components are given different weightings depending on their influence on performance and the token system is used to limit what manufacturers can change from year to year. Changing 100% of the weighted components would require 66 tokens, but after the first year of competition the manufacturers have 32 tokens to spend. A team can spend all 32 before the start of the season - as was the original intention of the regulations - or opt to hold some tokens back for later in the year.
The freedom to spend development tokens throughout the season (see right) has opened up a choice for the manufacturers: spend them early for the best possible power unit at the start of the year or gain more time for development by spending them later. One downside to spending them later in the year is that each car is limited to just four new power units over the 20 races and any power units used before an in-season token spend will not benefit from the same upgrades as new ones but may have to be used again at future races for reliability reasons.
"If you do use tokens up through the year, then the introduction of that will mean what [the power units] you had previously you won't want to use again, which does complicate it," Mercedes HPP managing director Andy Cowell explained. "That's one of the things to consider as you come up with ideas and decide what you want to do."
Ferrari has made clear that it will hold some tokens back, while Renault intends to spend before Melbourne. Cowell said Mercedes is sticking to its original plan of bringing as much performance as possible to the power unit for the first race while ensuring it is reliable enough to complete the five race distances required under the regulations.
"All the existing manufacturers have the opportunity to modify the 2014 power unit using the 32 tokens from the performance list and the FIA has released a technical directive saying that can be done during the year. At the moment our development approach is focused on getting to Melbourne, so our approach hasn't changed. We are pushing hard to make sure all our performance ideas are in Barcelona [for the two tests] so we can prove them out on the race car.
"We will get to Melbourne with the best performing hardware that we believe will survive five race distances, and then we will reflect. What we don't want to do is go 'maybe there's an opportunity to delay some of that performance' and that's the risk because when the timing window moves backwards there is always the risk that you slow down. We are not doing that, we are working damn hard to make sure we are in the best place possible for Melbourne."
An added complexity of the token system is that next year the manufacturers will only have 25 tokens to spend with 23% of the power unit off limits for performance upgrades. Cowell says Mercedes is focused on making the extra freedom pay off this year in the knowledge the certain components will not be upgradable from next year onwards.
"I think one of the balances, as ever when you are developing and you have an opportunity on a season-to-season basis, is what you put into this year and what you put into next year," he added. "We are in Formula One for the long haul, so the medium- to long-term matters as well as winning the next race. That is just one of the considerations of how you use the engine tokens and how you deploy them."