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Power to survive? 2010 engine usage revealed 21 Sep 2010

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Red Bull Racing RB6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Ferrari F10 engine detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Practice Day, Silverstone, England, Friday, 9 July 2010 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR5 retired from the race with a blown engine.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 1 August 2010 A Cosworth engine at the Cosworth Factory in Northampton.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Thursday, 8 July 2010

In Formula One racing everything, from driver fitness to upgrades, from aerodynamic efficiency to plain old luck, contributes to where a team ends up in the championship. The relative performances of most teams - particularly the title contenders - are so close that even the smallest details can make the difference.

One aspect that will play an increasingly important role as we reach the season’s end is engine usage. The 2010 regulations specify that each driver may use no more than eight engines during a championship campaign, and most drivers are getting near the end of their allocation, meaning reliability will become ever more critical as we progress through the final five rounds.

If a driver uses more than eight engines, he automatically drops 10 places on the starting grid of the event at which an additional unit is to be used - a fate that befell BMW Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa at the recent Belgian Grand Prix. Although De la Rosa has now departed the team, his replacement Nick Heidfeld inherits the same engine allocation, so any further fresh V8s will mean grid penalties for the returning German.

Not everybody is in such dire straits, however. The Renault engine seems to have been particularly hardwearing, with both Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov still on only their sixth unit. The same engine has also proved remarkably reliable for championship contender Mark Webber, also on six after bravely opting to forgo a new unit in his Red Bull at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. The only ‘non-Renault’ driver in such a strong position is Williams’ Rubens Barrichello, who still has two fresh Cosworth V8s at his disposal.

At the recent Monza race, most of the field opted to use a new engine. With some 70 percent of the lap spent at full throttle, and with some of highest speeds on the calendar, the circuit demands an unsullied (or at the very least, an almost fresh) V8. Indeed, only the aforementioned Webber, Barrichello and De la Rosa, are believed to have foregone a new engine in Italy.

So the majority of the field - including the two McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel - have used seven engines apiece. This leaves those three title contenders (and almost everyone else) with just one box-fresh engine with which to tackle the rest of the season. Points’ leader Webber has the theoretical advantage, with two in hand.

The engine disadvantage among the frontrunners is undoubtedly with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. After engine troubles afflicted the Italian team earlier in the season, they both used their eighth new V8 at Monza. Although it is not a huge headache - shrewd supervision of those engines still at their disposal should preclude any grid penalties - it’s far from ideal.

Should they and their fans be worried? Probably not - used units are routinely brought back into service, especially when a circuit is not considered too demanding. But that’s not to say that fresh engines aren’t worth their weight in gold. They are. Not only are they likely to have slightly more power, their drivers will also feel they can push them that little bit harder.

Alonso and Massa will certainly be less free to work their engines as hard as their title rivals, and may have to limit their preparatory track time during practice on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying. As the team’s chief engineer Chris Dyer said after the Monza race, they will need to “manage a perfect performance in the next five races” if they are to have a chance of winning the title.

So in conclusion, if you drive a Renault or your name’s Mark Webber things are looking really rather rosy. If you’re Vettel, or one of the McLaren duo, you probably don’t need to start fretting just yet, but if you’re a Ferrari driver, then you should probably have your fingers crossed that your used engines are still useable and have enough life in them to carry you across the next five finishing lines.

Engine usage to date:
McLaren Mercedes
1 Jenson Button 7
2 Lewis Hamilton 7

Mercedes GP
3 Michael Schumacher 7
4 Nico Rosberg 7

RBR Renault
5 Sebastian Vettel 7
6 Mark Webber 6

7 Felipe Massa 8
8 Fernando Alonso 8

Williams Cosworth
9 Rubens Barrichello 6
10 Nico Hulkenberg 7

11 Robert Kubica 6
12 Vitaly Pertrov 6

Force India Mercedes
14 Adrian Sutil 7
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi 7

STR Ferrari
16 Sebastien Buemi 7
17 Jaime Alguersuari 7

Lotus Cosworth
18 Jarno Trulli 7
19 Heikki Kovalainen 7

HRT Cosworth
20 Sakon Yamamoto 7
21 Bruno Senna 7

BMW Sauber Ferrari
22 Nick Heidfeld (formerly Pedro de la Rosa’s car) 9
23 Kamui Kobayashi 7

Virgin Cosworth
24 Timo Glock 7
25 Lucas Di Grassi 7

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