► Latest on AMG Project One hypercar
► Due to be launched at Frankfurt
► Hybridised F1 powertrain, 1020bhp
We’ve had an early access sneak peek at the Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar months before its official debut date at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show.
The £2.4 million halo car is set to develop 1020bhp from its 1.6-litre F1-derived hybrid powertrain, with an approximate 20-mile all-electric range also promised.
A sneak preview of AMG Project One hypercar
Holed up in a hidden AMG hospitality room at the 2017 Nurburgring 24 hours, the all-new hypercar showed off a radical mid-engine design, with its 1020bhp V6 powerplant and myriad hybrid technology taking centre stage.
The cutaway picture above was taken at the 'Ring preview; below is CAR magazine's earlier artist's impression, showing how the road car could look.
Further highlights include a specially developed eight-speed automatic single clutch gearbox (regular AMG units would disintegrate under the sheer strain of 1020bhp), all-round carbon ceramic brakes (with carbonfibre fins in the wheels to aid cooling) and adjustable drive and suspension modes.
The tyres will also be specifically designed for the Project One, although AMG is remaining coy on whether Mercedes-Benz F1 rubber suppliers Pirelli are set to be the chosen partner.
All of this in combination with all-wheel drive, means Project One will have more traction than a Formula 1 car according to AMG, and not be too far off it on track either. ‘Our main goal is quick lap times,’ AMG sports car development chief Philipp Eckert told us. ‘We’re not aiming for the quickest acceleration or top speed.'
Eckert also confirmed that, contrary to internet rumours, the car would not require a small team of highly-trained F1 mechanics to fire it up, instead using a regular engine on/off button.
It will however, need an engine and transmission rebuild at 31,000 miles. Let’s face it though, how many hypercar owners will actually take their pride and joy past even 10,000 miles?
Any ideas of a convertible or stripped-out track only version have been dashed by AMG chief Tobias Moers. 'It is a one-off - so far we have no plans for further derivatives like race ones and spider models,' Moers told CAR. 'We are starting to think about what's next, but there is no strategy for expansion of Project One.'
We hear that engineers have managed to push the weight of the stunning carbonfibre two-seater down to 1300kg - including batteries. No mean feat. Those batteries deliver an emissions-free range of 30 miles and make the 1.6-litre V6 F1 engine redlined at 11,000rpm much more driveable by beefing up low-end torque.
Rated at 1020bhp total, the all-wheel-drive monster machine from Affalterbach combines a 748bhp combustion engine with 408bhp of electric power. Four e-motors drive the front wheels, the crankshaft and the turbocharger.
A street-legal F1 car
Codenamed variously X1, R50 and Project One by insiders, the AMG hypercar is practically a street-legal F1 racer but with two seats instead of one, an extreme six-cylinder engine with e-motor assistance, and a power-to-weight ratio approaching one kilogramme per horsepower.
The AMG is therefore a close rival for the Aston Martin 001 hypercar (below), which is a collaboration with legendary F1 designer Adrian Newey and Red Bull Racing.
So, with Daimler owning 5% of Aston Martin, why hasn’t AMG elbowed out Red Bull and teamed up with the British sports car maker?
Closer ties were deemed politically and economically troublesome; Aston CEO Andy Palmer’s response is: ‘Daimler is cool about it [the AM-RB001]. We have a technology deal with Daimler, but an arm’s length relationship commercially. We also have a relationship with Red Bull, and Ford – this industry is about relationships.’
The Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar: F1 for the road
Moers, the CEO of AMG and father of the SLS and current GT, has decided to go it alone on the hypercar. The gullwing coupe will be a roadgoing car, although full series production is restricted to 275 units. 'We have a lot of loyal AMG customers who buy nearly every AMG. If these people are interested in a Project One, we have to sell them one.'
Speaking to reporters in Paris, sales and marketing chief Ola Källenius confirmed it would be road-legal. 'It will be a road car and you could drive it every day,' he said.
During the announcement on the eve of the Paris show, the company flashed up a silhouette of the new AMG supercar (above). It's remarkably reminiscent of an LMP1 race car's profile.
Tech chief Thomas Weber (above) said it was only a matter of time before Mercedes' F1 and road car ambitions overlapped. 'What would you do if you were looking for an AMG that redefines efficiency with performance?' he asked reporters. 'You would combine the best of both worlds. Tonight I am very excited to officially confirm our next big project at AMG is already in the pipeline: we are going to create an AMG performance hybrid featuring our F1 drivertrain technology.’
It comes as AMG announced 10 new models arriving by 2017, bringing the total number of AMG derivatives to a staggering 48 - forty-eight! - models. There's high margin in those performance cars, remember...
Watch the full video announcement in our player at the foot of this page.
Is this Lewis and Valtteri's next company car?
Probably. Like the silver single-seater raced by Messieurs Hamilton and Bottas, the AMG Project One sports a carbonfibre monocoque and a mid-mounted engine.
As far as the 0-62mph acceleration time is concerned, even four-wheel drive high-performance sports cars are handicapped by the tyres which can only cope with a certain momentum. Right now, the physical limit puts the fastest contenders in the 2.3 to 2.6sec bracket. Top speed is also dictated by the footwear, and by the ESP software which currently is flaky beyond 220mph.
A carbonfibre techfest
To underline the F1 connection, a super-rigid lightweight carbonfibre monocoque was a must. To cash in on the Mercedes-Benz brand image, AMG has opted for a gullwing door concept which is minimalist in form and function. Active aerodynamics are another windfall element inspired by F1. Those in the know talk about adjustable front flaps, a ground-effect floorpan design and a multi-functional rear spoiler, depicted in our artist's impression.
We believe that the rear air dam can do four things: switch to low-resistance mode at high speed which has the same effect as DRS, support the cornering stability by means of downforce-enhancing air blades on both sides, adjust the front-to-rear aerodynamic balance, and double-act as air brake. Because of the high speed and grip levels involved, a fully variable active suspension is a must. In combination with torque vectoring, the system can momentarily support the wheel that needs it most.
How to make an F1 car for the road
The target power output of 1020bhp is no mean feat, no matter how it will be achieved. The 1.6-litre V6 developed for the Mercedes-Petronas F1 car (seen in action in Australia, below) delivers around 750bhp in roadgoing trim.
Sales boss Källenius confirmed that the road car would use 'the entire drivetrain' from the F1 car; the engine will be developed in the UK in Brixworth, although the project is being masteminded by AMG in Affalterbach.
This quashes earlier specualtion that the AMG would use a multiple-turbo 2.0-litre four claimed to churn out close to 1000bhp. Sounds ludicrous, but remember that the turbocharged 1.5-litre BMW engine which propelled Nelson Piquet to the 1983 F1 World Championship later kicked out 1000bhp-plus.
Electric boost, four-wheel steer
The electric front axle acts as secondary drivetrain, enhancing traction and stability.
Rear-wheel steering completes the high-tech set-up which is claimed to be docile enough for the road and sharp enough for the circuit.
LMP1 prototype racer design vibe
Designwise, the AMG Project One is allegedly reminiscent of a hard-top LMP1 racer. Driver and passenger sit low down in a transverse tub, feet stretched out almost horizontally, pedals and steering-wheel fully adjustable, the bucket seats lined with inflatable elements, facing a head-up display and an LED rev counter en lieu of conventional elements.
A panoramic windscreen fuses with a double-bubble roof, the forward field of vision is framed by massive front wings, all major controls are at the driver's fingertips. With safety being a key brand value, MB-AMG is working on numerous innovative assistance systems conceived to build up and cement confidence. Algorithms assess the abilities of the person in charge while step by step increasing the available longitudinal and lateral acceleration. On the track, R50 can select the optimum brake and turn-in points, the fastest line and the appropriate gear.
Sounds great! Where do I sign?
Wait until you see the real thing at the Frankfurt show in 2017 - Project 1 will be held back for press day; we anticipate a price stretching to £2.4 million. CAR understands that all 275 AMG supercars have already been signed for.
The lucky few will finally be able to claim to drive something of an F1 car for the road. Which is a fitting birthday present to AMG, which clocks up its golden anniversary this year. The 50th birthday will be celebrated all year long, kicking off with an AMG party at the 24-hour Nurburgring race in May 2017.
With additional reporting in Paris and New York by Tim Pollard, and at the Nurburgring by James Dennison. Artist's impression by Auto Bild/JF Huber