Let's Get Down and Dirty With the 2000 McLaren-Mercedes F1 Engine

Gif: High Performance Academy (YouTube)

We rarely ever get to take a deep, personal dive into the technology that makes a Formula One car such an astounding feat of engineering. But now, thanks to High Performance Academy on YouTube, we can all spend a little bit of time this Tuesday drooling over the Mercedes V10 engine that produced 900 horsepower and 18,400 RPM in the 2000 McLaren MP4/15.

Andre from High Performance Academy grabs a pretty incredible interview with Tim White of Garage 59 while out at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. White was a former F1 engineer and worked specifically with the McLaren-Mercedes car in question. He was there in 2000 when driver David Coulthard brought home a third place overall in the championship—plus a prestigious win in Monaco. Simply put, this is a guy who knows his stuff.

Producing 18,400 RPM and 900 horsepower isn’t especially common for a 3.0-liter engine—but especially not a naturally-aspirated one. There’s obviously a ton of engineering that needs to go into the whole deal to make sure that the car can efficiently perform at high speeds for long periods of time. And now we get a little taste of what that entails:

The video is just over 16 minutes long, so take some time out of your day to share a special moment with a little technology chat. Trust me—you’re not going to regret it.


White talks about how to balance your RPM with the pressure produced in the engine to keep it running smoothly through pneumatically-controlled valve springs rather than the traditional steel spring setup—and how active trumpets on the intake could match RPM and fill out flat spots on the rev range. He discusses the double-paddle clutch and how its implementation reduced the possibilities for driver error on the starting line. There’s a ton of incredible content in this video.

I’m no engineer, but I’m eternally fascinated by the complex way everything in a race car has to function so smoothly, how engineers have to figure out what changes are worth making. And Tim White gives you easily-digestible way to understand why those decisions were made for the 2000 McLaren-Mercedes.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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I remember those cars well, having seen and heard up close with those V10s.  MP4/15 was particularly remarkable to me, because on a straight at full blast, it sounds like someone put me and an electric drill inside of a glass dome and run it at full speed.  That noise does not translate through TV.