A decade since F1 introduced its V6 hybrid turbo power units, IndyCar is due to finally embrace similar technology this year.
Its hybrids were originally planned to arrive in 2022, then were pushed back to 2023 and finally this season. The latest delay was announced last month, committed the series to adding hybrids at some point “during the second half” of 2024, after the Indianapolis 500.
With the season beginning on the streets of St Petersburg in mid-March, drivers are weighing up the implications of the championship fight being interrupted by a major mid-season change in their power units, and how that might affect them.
“We’ve got a lot of testing done with the hybrid already, which has been great,” said Andretti’s Colton Herta. “Now that we know that we still have a few more hybrid test days coming up, and some without the hybrid. So it’s probably going to be very crucial for those days to mark down the differences in the two.”
Herta and others are acutely aware that any driver who starts the season well could easily be knocked off their stride if the addition of the heavy hybrid units affects the balance of their DW12 chassis.
“That could be a season-killer, for sure, if your car is great without it or with it,” said Herta. “You go into the later half of the year, whenever it gets introduced, and your season can be flipped. So you really have to stay on the ball and understand the differences between the two.”
He’s pleased with the progress Andretti’s engine supplier Honda has done to integrate the standard system with its V6 twin-turbo. However he still sees potential for a shift in the competitive balance between engine manufacturers and teams when the hybrids are introduced.
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“It’s down to engine manufacturer and who implements the new gearbox [best] and how the engine power is transferred and the hybrid part of it is transferred to the powertrain, and how well that is done for drive-ability is going to be a big thing. I think Honda has done a tremendous job with that so far from what I’ve seen.
“But obviously once it’s actually put into play it could be a whole different story because of the timeline and how long down the road it will be. So development is still ongoing and everyone’s kind of making their car better day by day with it.
“For me, it’s really about understanding because this could be a…