The Mercedes-AMG Project One has been on the radar now for over a year, promising to bring an F1-like driving experience to the road. Till now, little more than a static concept car has given us an idea about what to expect before its promised debut in 2019, but that might be about to change.
That’s because Mercedes-AMG has revealed images of a Project One development mule testing at Millbrook proving ground, not a surprising location thanks to its close proximity to Mercedes-Petronas’ development HQ in Brackley. This next generation hypercar promises to re-establish what we think is possible in a road car, and judging by these shots it looks like the road car will remain faithful to the near-production concept revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show.
Due to cost around £2m when it reaches customers next year, the Project One’s internals are amazingly similar to those of Lewis Hamilton’s weekend wheels. The same cannot be said for exterior though, which follows contemporary hypercar styling trends. That said, the design has been heavily influenced by the powertrain’s requirement for vast volumes of oxygen for cooling and combustion. The roof intake – channeling air straight to the engine – has been lifted from the F1 car, while further intakes found either side of the front apron also supply air to the high tech power unit.
What marks out the Project One from hypercars before it is the drivetrain. Be in no doubt that the ‘Formula 1 car for the road’ tagline isn’t just marketing guff. It’s a fact. One Mercedes has been keen to emphasise in the build-up to the car’s arrival.
Aft of the passenger cell you’ll find the EQ POWER+ powertrain that has propelled Mercedes to four consecutive constructors and drivers’ championships. Speaking about this application of the Formula 1 powertrain, Mercedes-AMG CEO ,Tobias Moers said, ‘we are the first to make Formula 1 technology roadworthy.’
As you might expect, all-wheel drive plays a part, delivered and intelligently vectored by an electric motor in each front wheel. But let’s start with the game changer at the back. As with the current Mercedes F1 car, the rear wheels are driven by a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol V6 with direct injection and, for the sake of longevity, an 11,000rpm red line – dialled down from the 13,500rpm Lewis has to play with but still vaguely nuts compared with anything even the driver of the most hyperactive hypercar is used to.
Tobias Moers opens up on the Project One in Geneva
Alongside the launch of the GT Concept, evo quizzed Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers on the other car we’re awaiting with bated breath – the Project One hypercar.
Where does Project One sit in Mercedes-AMG’s hybrid future?
‘The idea of this hypercar is to give a totally different understanding of performance from anything else on the market. I’m hoping the car will open the door to discussion about the future, including for us. It’s different to anything else – on a technology and engineering level more challenging than anything I’ve done, the peak of technology today on the road.
‘We have an F1 engine that is used to idling at 4500rpm, now idling at 1100rpm; it still revs to 11,000rpm in the road car. It is still a 1.6-litre F1 engine, with the original crankcase and cylinder heads. We have to change the injectors, and reduce the compression ratio a little, but that’s it. You don’t need an F1 team to get the car started: you hit the button and it fires up, on 98 octane – or maybe 95.’
‘We have a combined team with Brixworth [Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains], as we have a lot of experience on the emissions and OBD side. We’ve also just invested in a new [test] bench, and will run the first things there at the end of March. We’ve learned a lot as well! So far I’ve only driven it on the simulator – on the Nordschleife – but we’re going to be on the road with the car by October.’
Where do you see Project One in relation to its rivals?
‘What is the benchmark for this segment? There is no benchmark. The Red Bull car is a totally different approach to us: it’s still a V12. Having unbelievable levels of downforce is good, but the trade-off with the tyres is you lose mechanical grip in slower corners as you have to make the tyres strong enough to take the high loads. The opportunity for us, and the only reason we have the Project One, is the chance to have a street-legal F1 powertrain.
‘I wouldn’t do it with a V8 or V12: we could do it – call it “old school” – but for us to define the future with it would not be feasible. Having the most efficient powertrain was the key for me calling Andy [Cowell – MD at Brixworth] and asking him [if it was possible] before I brought the idea to the board. The board has confidence in Andy and I, so we got the sign off. We are close now to four digits for prospects and only 275 cars – our customers want something special, they want new technology.’
Tobias Moers was speaking to Adam Towler