Mercedes 'trying to get on top of engine problems' as they weigh up Hamilton PU penalty
Toto Wolff says Mercedes are searching for answers as to if and when Lewis Hamilton will take another engine penalty this season after Valtteri Bottas received a sixth Mercedes engine for the United States Grand Prix.
Bottas will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race at the Circuit of The Americas after taking a sixth internal combustion engine this season - three more than is allowed by the regulations. Along with Bottas, Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and George Russell of Williams have taken new Mercedes power units – but both will start from the back. On Friday in Texas, Mercedes Team Principal Wolff explained that his team haven’t “understood fully” where the problems lie.
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“I think you see that we are suffering with reliability this year, we’re going onto the sixth engine… for Valtteri, and it is not something we choose to do, but on the contrary; we are trying to really get on top of the problems, and we haven’t understood fully,” said Wolff.
As for the probability of Hamilton taking a new engine in the remaining five races of 2021, Wolff added: “I can’t say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is, but obviously the risk is still there.
"What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit or do you want to really run it and possibly risk a DNF, and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak, and we haven’t come to the right answers yet.”
The Silver Arrows boss wouldn’t disclose precisely what the engine issue is, but accepted that his team are “losing points” given Bottas is on his sixth engine and has used more turbos and MGU-H components than any other driver with five each – having taken grid penalties in Italy and Russia already.
“I wouldn’t want to disclose what it [the engine issue] is for obvious reasons, but it is always a concern; I think that when we look at Monza, for example, Valtteri, had to start from the back, and we are losing points on the way,” conceded Wolff.
“I would have hoped for less penalties and used less engines but this year it’s really hit us hard. McLaren and Aston Martin [Mercedes’ customer teams] were more fortunate and in that respect, we have to take it on the chin and do the best possible job,” he added.
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With Mercedes 36 points ahead of Honda-powered rivals Red Bull with six races remaining – including this weekend’s US GP – Wolff was therefore asked if his team are in a “comfortable” position when it comes to clinching an eighth consecutive constructors’ championship.
“Well, comfortable is the wrong word,” he said, “but I think a little bit of a bigger gap [would be] solid, but also that could go very much to the end and it’s an important championship for us as Mercedes.”