Will Power was one of six NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers last week to give the sport’s new hybrid technology a first whirl on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s oval. While there is still much to learn about the system being developed by Chevrolet and Honda in partnership with INDYCAR, count Power among its fans.
As other drivers have said, Power said this element is another tool for the drivers to manage in competition, and those who use it most efficiently will have a leg up.
So far, Power has more miles with the technology than any other series driver, in part because Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin have had other commitments, such as IMSA’s Petit Le Mans earlier this month at Road Atlanta. That makes him the best candidate to discuss nuances of the system that will be used in competition in 2024.
These Five Questions were posed to Power by reporters during last week’s test at IMS:
Q: You have said the system is relatively straightforward when it’s used in a manual setting. You pull the paddle to regenerate the energy and press a button to disperse the energy, the latter providing more horsepower. This is an additional tool that drivers will manage inside the cockpit. Is it adding another layer of complexity to your job?
Power: I have to say in qualifying (for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge), you’re going to be pretty busy on that first lap. I’m pretty sure you’ll (regenerate) on that lap, then you’ll decide when you’ll deploy. Between that, the weight jacker, switching the fuel slot and (managing) the (anti-roll) bars, yeah, you’ll be pretty busy in qualifying.
Q: The old push-to-pass system had a fixed amount of additional horsepower. Do you know yet what the maximum duration will be for the hybrid system deployment?
Power: You can play with (the deployment) a lot, actually. You can have a lot of power for a short time or you can spread that out. I think on road and street courses, you pretty much get all the way through fifth gear (with deployment), which is a key area of getting power for lap time. Yeah, that’s all stuff you can really play with a lot, or the series can. It just depends how much they want to utilize it. … This thing is just adding more power. I’m hoping (this) is used out of every single corner on a road and street course just for more horsepower.
Q: In the “500,” how many times per lap do you think a driver will be regenerating?
Power: As soon as you’re in the draft of someone, you’re going to be regenerating. Then, you’re going to be trying to time that deploy for when you want to pass. Maybe you’re not going to (pass the opponent), and you’ll switch off and (regenerate) again, waiting for a better run. I think that will be really based on how you’re running. I think you’ll try to keep that tank full. Instead of hitting the limiter or lifting, you’ll grab the paddle to (regenerate). It will just be a constant changing thing.
Q: When you lift or when you regenerate, will it take some touch to maximize? Surely you won’t want to do it too much or you’ll lose the draft. Is that something that’s important?
Power: Yeah, I think you’ll have to judge your draft. Like, that will just be as if you’re lifting. I mean, it’s always different depending on where you are, how the car is struggling in front, is it not, are you trying to hang on to the pack? There are so many variables that go on when you’re out there. We’ll see when we run (in the spring). It will be part of the game, another tool that you’ve got to be good at, be pretty smart with the way you use it.
Q: You’ve done much of Chevrolet’s testing of the hybrid system to date. Will this inherently give you an advantage when the season starts?
Power: I think the way (INDYCAR) is going to use it on road and street courses, with (automatic) regeneration, it’s not going to matter. The auto won’t have too much interaction with the driver. To me, it’s a good thing. I think they’re still (considering) the rules because you may have it where you have auto (regeneration) and deploy but you also have the ability to pull the paddle. Instead of getting into the hard limiter in top gear, you use (the hybrid system) as a regenerative tool. Yeah, it’s still a lot of stuff to go through. I mean, I have had a lot of miles in that thing. I think if you’re having to pull that paddle, it would be an advantage (for me) because that is quite awkward on a road course to be grabbing that, hitting (the button) every time out of the corner, but I don’t think that will be the case. The last test we had we weren’t doing that – it was auto everything. I think they’re still trying to understand how best to use it, which I think the best way to use it is to get the most out of it for lap time, which is using it as much as we can. At first, (the priority) is going to be reliability.