Former Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe has revealed the team rarely ran their engine at full power during qualifying in 2014 as they tried to hide their sizeable advantage at the start of the turbo-hybrid era.
The Silver Arrows dominated that season, winning 16 of the 19 races to finish 294 points ahead of their nearest rivals Red Bull in the constructors' standings, while Lewis Hamilton beat teammate Nico Rosberg to the drivers' title.
Speaking on the Beyond the Grid podcast, Lowe revealed Mercedes didn't run their engine at full power as they feared F1 would change the rules to slow them down.
“You’ve got Bernie [Ecclestone] running around ‘saying this is all a nightmare, these engines are terrible’,” Lowe stated. “Well, the thinking was if Mercedes had looked ridiculously good, then something would be done about it.
“In qualifying, we would never turn the engine up for Q1 and Q2. It was run in a sort of idle mode.
“The debate would then be how much to turn the engine up for Q3. I’d be getting it in the ear from Toto: ‘That’s too much, that’s too much’. And I’m thinking, ‘But if we don’t get pole, we’ll look like a right bunch of mugs’.
“So what number to pick that would do the job and knowing you didn’t want to err on the wrong way? So that was a big part of the discussion on Saturday afternoon. Nice chat to have. Actually that went on quite a long time. Through most of 2014, that engine was never on full power for qualifying.”
Mercedes took pole position at 18 of the 19 races, however Lowe was quick to point out the W05 was a complete package.
“It was a good car as well,” Lowe added. “It wasn’t just the engine, we had terrific aerodynamics as well, better than anyone actually, which we used to track because we would engine-correct all of our data.
"And that car was better than any car, quite apart from the engine."