Are Mercedes taking a risk by not completely replacing Hamilton's engine?

16-10-2021 17:12 | Updated: 16-10-2021 17:14
Are Mercedes taking a risk by not completely replacing Hamilton's engine?

Where Max Verstappen changed his complete engine for a new one in Russia, Lewis Hamilton only changed the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) in Turkey. That did earn him a grid penalty of ten spots, but with a completely new engine he doesn't drive, unlike Red Bull Racing's Dutchman. Why didn't Mercedes replace the entire engine of the title contender, just like Red Bull did?

The regulations regarding grid penalties in Formula 1 have been different for a couple of years now. For a while it was possible for a driver to get a grid penalty of 60 places and to make things more transparent, the FIA has decided that for all grid penalties of fifteen places or more, the driver will automatically be placed at the back of the grid.

Hamilton takes risk

In the engine pool a driver can use the following parts: 3 ICEs, 3 MGU-Hs (Motor Generator Unit-Heat), 3 MGU-Ks (Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic), 3 TC (Turbochargers), 2 ES (Energy Stores) and 2 CE (Control Electronics). When a driver exceeds the limit for the first time for a certain part, he gets a grid penalty of ten places, the next time he does so he gets a penalty of five places.

Until Turkey Hamilton was on the limit of all the parts. So he 'only' has a new ICE, the rest is all still within the FIA limit. As Mercedes have not introduced any further engine parts, it seems they are gambling to finish the season with this engine.

Verstappen with advantage after Russia

Because, in The regulations of the FIA states that "the first time a new engine part is introduced, a grid penalty of ten places will be given. The next time a part of the same type is used a grid penalty of fiveplaces will be given". So if Hamilton needs a new engine in the final stages of the season it could be an expensive change.

Because Verstappen already has a first new version of all parts, he cannot get a grid penalty of ten places anymore. For Hamilton this is only the case for the ICE, which he got new in Turkey. If Mercedes, for example in Mexico, wants to replace a part, the choice is between a single new part, or starting from the back.

Is Mercedes taking a risk?

Starting from the back seems to be avoided by Mercedes, otherwise they would have taken the gamble with Hamilton in Turkey. With six races to go Hamilton has to do it with his current engine pool and although it is not impossible, it is still unclear. At two tracks Mercedes doesn't have data yet, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and if it turns out that the engine is struggling in those circumstances Hamilton might get a grid penalty.

In case of a grid penalty it will be, as long as it is not a new ICE, a grid penalty of ten places. Mercedes might do that in Mexico or Brazil, but given the small difference in the championship with Verstappen they will do everything they can to not replace any engine parts this season.

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