Infiniti will be the first to bring F1's dual-hybrid system to the road.
The foundations are currently being laid for Infiniti to join the car manufacturing elite by the end of the decade. Having achieved record sales last year and with sales increasing faster than any other car brand in the US, Infiniti is making huge strides in the luxury car sector. Catching Germany's Big Three is now a very realistic ambition. We've driven every model in the lineup, from the QX30 crossover, through the sporty Q60 3.0t to the epically luxurious QX80.
Last month at the British Grand Prix, we got the chance to learn more about Infiniti's technical partnership with Renault Sport F1 Team and how this will impact its future models and branding. A private suite at the lavish Paddock Club (a $5,000 ticket) was our home for the race weekend, and an hour before the qualifying session begun we joined a roundtable discussion with Cyril Abiteboul, the fast-speaking Managing Director of Renault Sport Racing, Tommaso Volpe, Director of Infiniti Global Motorsport, and Paul Hembery, Pirelli's Motorsport Director. Infiniti has been using hybrid power units in its road cars since 2011, while hybrid units were introduced in Formula One in 2014.
In 2016, Infiniti and Renault joined forces to co-develop the F1 car's energy recovery system (ERS) and the partnership is flourishing. As well as aiding the F1 team, the alliance has also resulted in the Q60 Project Black S. Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March, Infiniti promises it will be one of the most sophisticated hybrids on the road. Utilizing a dual-hybrid system derived from that used in F1, the Project Black S will represent the pinnacle of the brand, a halo car to showcase the company's latest technology sitting above the Red S (performance), Blue S (hybrid) and Silver S (visual package) in the firm's recently unveiled badging structure.
The dual hybrid system will utilize an ERS inspired by the dual-hybrid system in Formula One cars that stores energy from braking and exhaust heat and deploys recovered electric power to boost power and torque. Machine learning computers used in F1 cars that learns and helps the car improve from lap to lap will also be transferred to the road car. "Success in F1 currently means sustainable power and performance," announced Cyril Abiteboul. "Renault's success on the track is vital for its credibility in the development of the Project Black S with Infiniti and Pirelli." The tire manufacturer will equip the Black S with P Zero rubber complete with colored markings on the sidewalls, mimicking those used by F1 cars.
In terms of the car's progress, Tommaso Volpe revealed that an architecture feasibility study has been done and a decision has been made internally how to proceed. "The next 18 months will be spent engineering the system, with the most obvious challenges to overcome being the packaging – things are already pretty tight up front – and in regards to the cooling systems." By the time of the car's arrival, Renault – who finished 6th this at Silverstone thanks to the Hulk's impressive weekend – will be pushing for the championship. Renault is committed to being serious contenders for the F1 title by 2019, just when the Project Black S should be hitting the road.
If Infiniti can have its name splashed across the F1 champion's car as delivery of its halo car begins, the next decade could be one where we see the brand mentioned in the same breath as the top carmakers in the world.