The claim of “an F1 race car for the road” is one that has been trotted out plenty of times before; but the reality has invariably been a road car that incorporates limited technical elements that happen to be shared with a prototype racer.
However when Mercedes-AMG announced it would build a road-legal hypercar with a drivetrain lifted directly from Formula 1, it was time to take notice. The Mercedes-AMG Project One truly has an F1 heart beating in its carbonfibre chest.
The drivetrain’s centrepiece is a mid-mounted 1.6-litre V6 with two electric motors – one bolted directly to the crankshaft to provide additional torque, the second to eliminate lag for the engine’s massive turbocharger. To allow for the stratospheric maximum engine speed of 11,000rpm, the four overhead cams are gear driven and the valvetrain uses pneumatics rather than conventional springs.
Power is delivered to the road through all four wheels: the rears fed by the V6 and its electric motors, while the fronts each have an additional 60kW motor. The purely electrically driven front axle allows individual acceleration and braking of each front wheel, and this torque vectoring is used to further aid vehicle dynamics. The electric motors also allow the Project One to achieve a claimed 25km pure electric range.
Project One’s combined system output is quoted as in excess of 740kW. That’s around the same figure as Lewis Hamilton’s race car, and enough, says Mercedes-AMG, to hurl the Project One from standstill to 200km/h in less than six seconds. For comparative purposes, the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari hit that mark in closer to seven. On a road long enough, AMG suggests a V-max beyond 350km/h.
As for the transmission, AMG describes the all-new eight-speed unit as a “manual”, but you won’t find a conventional lever to swap cogs. The gearbox is electromechanically/hydraulically automated or can be shifted using the steering wheel paddles.
The car’s carbonfibre construction and use of the engine and transmission as a structural member and mounting point for the rear push-rod suspension is heavily F1 inspired.
Active aerodynamic aids, too, are critical to the Project One’s quest for F1-like performance. The large rear spoiler extends in two stages to improve aero efficiency and stability as the air speed increases, while a cluster of smaller fins above each front wheel also control air flow according to road speed.
A monstrous carbonfibre stabilising ‘shark fin’ incorporates the roof-mounted engine intake tract that feeds air to the turbo, while the LED headlight and tail light designs mimic the AMG badge with three separated rhomboids.
A single large-bore exhaust provides the visual centrepiece of the tail section and appears to have little in the way of silencers. Turbocharged V6 engines may have muted the F1 field on race day, but it seems safe to predict the Project One won’t exactly be subtle-sounding.
Inside is configured for two, with occupants located in place by carbonfibre seats that are incorporated into the car’s monocoque construction. The seats don’t slide, but adjustable backrests, pedals and steering wheel allow passengers to get comfortable.
The massive shark fin obscures vision from inside the cabin, but a roof-mounted camera displays the rear view on a screen in place of a mirror. One 10-inch screen on the dashboard provides the driver with critical vehicle information while a second displays powertrain status and other applications.
Mercedes-AMG also deemed that air-con, power windows and an audio system were essential, along with storage cubbies behind the seats, and a central compartment with transparent lid. It may have an engine lifted from an F1 car, but Project One is still a Mercedes as highlighted by window switches taken from C-Class.
The benchmarks of hypercar performance, including a Nurburgring lap time, appear to be on hold until the Project One has turned a wheel in public but, already, the mega Merc looks set to bring records tumbling.
Just 275 examples of the Project One will be built, with each selling for around A$3 million. We’re advised that nine are headed for Australia and one for New Zealand.