We talked exclusively with Jochen Hermann, chief technical officer of Mercedes-AMG, at the IAA Munich and got the full story behind the development of this long-awaited F1 car for the street.
The AMG Project One was introduced in 2017. The idea had been stated before by others, to make a Formula 1 car for the street. No one had really accomplished it. But when Mercedes-AMG says they can do it, well, they have some credibility. So we believed they would.
The $2.7 million car would be a plug-in hybrid, with a 1.6-liter turbo V6 plucked from an actual F1 car, plopped into the AMG One and aided by four electric motors. That drivetrain would be good for over 1000 peak horsepower, a 0-124 mph time of six seconds, and a top speed of 217 mph.
“The adaptation of a complete Formula 1 drive unit for a road-legal hypercar is a tremendous undertaking,” Mercedes said last year, when prototypes started testing on the Nürburging. (edit: no kidding!) “This adaption will result in new standards being set for performance in a road-going vehicle, and thus set a new milestone in automotive history for Mercedes-AMG.”
Then the car kind of slid off the radar. This week at IAA Mobility Munich, Mercedes showed a full-size version of the AMG One that will race in Forza Horizon 5 when that game comes out Nov. 9. It looked cool.
At IAA Mobility Munich we got a chance to talk with Jochen Hermann, chief technical officer of Mercedes-AMG, to ask him how the real AMG Project One, now called just AMG One, is going. Turns out it’s a lot harder to make an F1 car for the street than anyone thought.
Autoweek: What’s the status of the Project One?
Jochen Hermann: I remember being in the room when the idea came up. And like all crazy ideas… “Yeah, we could do a Formula 1 car for the street!” And then the project was started. If we talk about a complex P3 hybrid… First of all, take a regular combustion engine out of a Formula 1 car where everything is so different, like idle rpm is four times more (than a normal car). And if you talk about NOx they look at you, “What do you mean?” So we had to add a chemistry factory, basically, to that motor. And then it was striking to me when I visited the Formula 1 team last November, standing next to Lewis (Hamilton’s) car, and when he is coming out, there were like 10 or 12 people coming out who all ran to the car, everybody’s opening something, puts a screw driver in, puts a laptop to the car, before you can actually start the car. With Project One, you turn the key and people expect the car to start. So we had to put software for (the equivalent of) 10 or 12 race engineers into the coding. I think that was something that was really underestimated.
If you talk to customers and explain what we are doing there, actually they like that complex system and most of the time they really understand, and you say, “Hey, it took us a bit longer.” But I really think what we’ve changed in the last, let’s say 12 months, we really had a strong communication path to the customers. That was when Philipp (Scheimer, who became CEO of AMG a year ago) came in, I was taking care of the technology and Philipp said, “Hey, I can talk to the customers.” I usually say if you buy a nice watch, usually at a certain level of a watch, you don’t order it on the internet. It’s this experiencing, they show it to you, maybe you go back home, you come back a few days later, blah, blah, blah. And it’s the same thing here… And we are very sure, at least I can say for AMG, we will never do it again. And I’m confident that no one else will do it.
W: Word on the street was it wouldn’t idle under 4000 rpm. Is that just idle chit chat? What’s the status of that project, will it go forward?
JH: Sure, sure, sure. The thing about the project, we’re fighting for the start of production in this year.
AW: Oh yeah?
JH: Yeah, that’s still the goal. As I said, very complex, very complicated, this is what we are fighting for.
Q: So idling at 4000 that was an issue?
JH: That’s an issue even before I joined AMG again (in May of 2020). Just to give you an idea, the noise level, for example, you talk to the HPP colleagues (AMG High Performance Powertrains) and they say, “Ah, we idle at 4000.” And they say, “We have to idle at 1200.” “Why?” Okay, then let’s do it. And ‘let’s do it’ is not so easy. We also had to pass crash tests. We did. We had to pass drive-by tests with noise level. It would have been easier to say, “Hey, a race track version only.” But that isn’t what we were making. The more complex it is, the more unique it is. You can take the car and do a Sunday afternoon drive with a Formula 1 car.