Williams F1 Team has announced that from 2014 onward they will be using Mercedes-Benz engines and that they have agreed to a long-term deal with the company. Williams currently uses Renault power plants in their cars.
2014 will mark the beginning of the 1.6-liter V6 turbo engine era in Formula 1 and Williams is the third team to announce that they will be switching engine manufacturers in anticipation of the change. McLaren, who currently use Mercedes engines, has already announced a partnership with Honda beginning in 2015, while Toro Rosso will be changing from Ferrari to Renault engines for 2014 thus giving them one more thing in common with Red Bull Racing.
The switch makes Mercedes the fifth manufacturer to supply Williams with engines in the last 15 years. The Grove, UK based team was previously partnered with BMW (2000-2005), Cosworth (2006 and 2010-2011), Toyota (2007-2009), and Renault (2012-2013).
According to the agreement Mercedes will supply both the power plant and the associated Energy Recovery System while Williams will continue to produce their own transmissions.
“Mercedes-Benz has been one of the sport’s most successful engine suppliers and we believe that they will have an extremely competitive engine package” said Williams founder Sir Frank Williams of his team’s new partner at the press conference where the deal was announced.
Prior to the beginning of preseason testing Mercedes had said that they were “excited” by the challenges that the new engine regulations would present. They added that they had already developed a V6 engine that had the potential to match the power output of their current V8. While there is no doubt that other engine manufacturers have been developing their V6s for a number of year as well, Mercedes has been more public about having achieved good things with their planned power plant. That may have been a factor in persuading Williams to join up with the German manufacturer.
McLaren’s plan to dump Mercedes also likely opened the door for Williams to move in. Currently Mercedes supplies engines to McLaren, Mercedes AMG, and Force India. With McLaren dropping out it allows Williams to step in without Mercedes stretching their resources any thinner.
What hasn’t been brought up is that this new partnership may have been influenced by Renault’s statements earlier in the year implying that they wanted to limit the number of teams they supplied engines to in order to strengthen their partnership with teams like Red Bull and Lotus F1 Team. While Renault did say they would be willing to still meet demand for their engines, it was certainly implied that they didn’t want to increase the number of teams they supplied. Four teams on the circuit are using Renault power plants for the 2013 season and if Williams had not decided to partner with Mercedes that number would have gone up to five for 2014.
I don’t expect Williams to be the final team to announce that they are changing to a different manufacturer for their V6s. With the engineers having near free reign on the development of the new power plants due to the relative lack of restrictions, engine prices will increase for 2014. That means some of the less well-funded teams will be shopping around to get the most bang for their buck.
I would keep an eye on Caterham F1 Team because they seem to be the most likely to make a switch. Caterham currently uses Renault engines, but if the price gets too steep they may go elsewhere. Cosworth, who supplies Marussia F1 Team with engines, would be the most likely choices if Caterham decides to go another route but Honda could be an attractive destination as well. It will all come down to who has the best package for the right price.
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