Formula One teams are continually on the lookout for vital tenths of a second. In almost every race, new wings and aerodynamic updates are tested. And yet, without a powerful, reliable engine, nothing would move at all in F1.
Red Bull racing driver Sebastian Vettel took a big knock in the hunt for the world championship: a sparkplug gremlin in Bahrain and engine failure in Korea on his V8 Renault cost him 38 championship points. Had he secured those points, he would now be only two points adrift of clinching the world championship title at the finale in Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari too had faulty engines this season. At the season opener in Bahrain, both drivers had to fit new units due to overheating problems. In Malaysia, Fernando Alonso retired with engine failure.
Ferrari client Sauber had even bigger worries. Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa had three DNFs because of defective engines. In Belgium, the Spanish driver had already exhausted the total of eight units that are allowed for the whole season and had to accept a grid penalty for using a ninth engine. His successor, Nick Heidfeld, is also suffering. Since Singapore, he's had to keep a watchful eye on his engine's running time and accept being down on speed in addition.
That hasn't always been the case. In 2005, McLaren Mercedes frequently learnt the hard way. In recent years, with much hard work, determination and dedication, Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines in Brixworth have succeeded in making their engine the benchmark for all others.
Experts think that the Mercedes-Benz Formula One engine, FO 108X, is the most powerful and reliable on the grid, which is why specialist magazine Race Engine Technology made its predecessor their 'Engine of the Year' in 2008 and 2009.
In the 2010 season, the Mercedes engine has notched up five wins, five fastest race laps and one pole position. Last year, McLaren Mercedes and world championship winners, Brawn Mercedes (now Mercedes GP) won ten out of seventeen races, including an historic first GP victory using a Formula One racing car equipped with the KERS hybrid system. In 2009, Jenson Button claimed three races wins in a row – from Bahrain to Monaco – using the same Mercedes-Benz FO 108W engine. Such a feat had never been accomplished before.
Next year, the successful Mercedes package will be further enhanced by what is generally considered to be the best KERS hybrid system, again produced by Mercedes. It's hardly surprising that other racing teams are showing a keen interest in Mercedes engines.