A Formula One car for the road isn’t an all-new concept and it definitely isn’t anyone’s first crack at it. But this is something different. It’s the Mercedes-AMG Project One.
Finally unveiled in tangible form at the 2017 IAA, more commonly known as the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Project One is still not in its final production form with the first car scheduled to roll off the production line in 2019. But the changes are expected to be minimal like minor aesthetics and road legalities. The powertrain is set in place, using the same 1.6-litre turbo-hybrid unit that was first introduced in F1 in 2014. Mercedes is still keeping the exact figures close to its chest but says you can expect a total output exceeding 1000bhp from the unit that will rev to 11,000rpm (down from 15,000rpm in the F1 car, but that’s okay) and a top speed beyond 350kph.
Another company claim for this new-generation hypercar is a 0-200kph time of less than 6 seconds. A lot of owners of the already sold-out Mercedes-AMG Project One will probably have to up their physical fitness to bear the brunt of that insane acceleration. Let’s take a closer look at how the revolutionary engine from the pinnacle of motorsport is used in something for the road.
The turbocharged V6 of the Project One has an electric motor built into its turbocharger for getting rid of any lag. Then there is another 160bhp motor which works on the crankshaft. There are two more electric motors, 160bhp and revving up to 50,000rpm, which independently drive each front wheel to allow for torque-vectoring and space-bending acceleration times. Those front motors also allow for a front-wheel-drive EV mode, though not sure when you’d use it. The power is shuffled through an 8-speed automated manual gearbox that you can control using the paddle-shifters mounted on the F1-style steering wheel.
AMG’s techies say the turbo V6 has quicker throttle response than a naturally aspirated V8 because of the Motor Generator Unit – Heat system. This F1-type tech works with the turbo’s exhaust gases and compressor turbines. When the engine is not being pushed, the turbo drives a generator mounted on the turbo’s shaft. Put your foot down and the same generator reverses into a motor, spinning up the turbo for immediate response.
Then there are the brakes. Carbon. But the setup here is for more than just stopping Project One owners from ploughing their 2.5 million pound cars into a hedge or a railing or tyrewall. Mercedes-AMG reckons 80% of the force can be entrusted to power recuperation, charging the battery for the next fast straight. The batteries and their cooling systems are identical to those in the weekend cars of Hamilton and Bottas.
The Project One has a bespoke suspension, pushrod design. The wheels are ten-spoke forged aluminium with carbon aero covers to further reduce drag.
Phew, that’s enough tech and spec for now. Let’s stand back and take a look at this engineering achievement then. First word that comes to mind? Smooth. It looks a bit more old-school Le Mans prototype than the usual muscley AMG. Though an absence of creases is a Merc design tenet these days, seen in the AMG GT Concept and the Concept A Sedan. There’s a pop-up rear wing which also acts as an airbrake and works in tandem with the retractable front-wheelarch extractors to increase downforce and reduce drag, depending on the mode. Or the mood.
Speaking of modes, AMG will offer a few to switch between. There’s the aforementioned silent EV mode, a standard hybrid setting when the throttle is teased, and one for a hot lap in qualifying that is surely to be engaged for those Nürburgring lap times. You can turn all the ESP off, but we really wouldn’t. Not unless your resume includes some recent experience as a Formula One driver. AMG boss Tobias Moers reportedly stated that the Project One is more than just a top-speed machine or a showboater. He wants those lap records and it already has a nemesis: the brainchild of Aston Martin and Red Bull, the similarly powerful and similarly aerodynamically-precise Valkyrie.
While we haven’t seen the cabin yet, AMG has revealed a few details. They promise two seats, a lot of carbon and a pair of 10-inch screens for data and mode displays. There won’t be much else, no back window for example. Instead, there is a roof-mounted camera. The electric windows come standard in those butterfly doors. Like the Ford GT, the Project One will have its seats fashioned into the carbon tub with the pedals and the steering wheel being adjustable instead. There will be air-conditioning and even small storage spaces behind the seats.
There will be further details to follow regarding the Mercedes-AMG Project One in the days to come, so stay tuned for more. It’s a new era and the machines are almost here. The Holy Trinity are likely to meet their newest rivals and possible successors. Exciting times.