Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has expressed his concerns about the reliability of their engines and is not ruling out the possibility of another grid penalty this season. The Silver Arrows installed the fifth engine and components on Valtteri Bottas’s car in Russia and fourth on Lewis Hamilton’s car in Turkey, which resulted in grid penalties for both in the respective races.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Wolff explained the reason for the engine change, saying:
“We had to do it. We saw some data on the internal combustion unit that didn't look very promising and a DNF is a total killer for the championship.”
According to the Mercedes team boss, there were a few discrepancies, or "gremlins" as he termed them, which concerned the team this season. He added:
“We weren't completely sure where they came from and how much performance they could potentially cost. So we'd rather have a new engine in the pool and that we understand that can possibly go longer.”
Wolff suggested that Mercedes have been struggling with reliability issues this season, which has cost them performance. While that may sound uncharacteristic for them, given their mastery of the V6 hybrid engine era.
Mercedes boss Wolff concerned with engine reliability for future races
A particular point of concern for the Austrian was that Hamilton’s car apparently made "unusual noises" and that changing engine was inevitable. Explaining the issue, Wolff said:
“I think we understand much better now where the root cause lies and it's something that can happen from time to time if you just have a material issue, a batch problem and these are the things you need to consider.”
He further added that Mercedes were trying to analyze the issue and figure out "how to prevent it in the future".
Depending on the title battle and the performance of the current engine, the team will decide whether to continue both drivers on their current engines. While Bottas is on his fifth engine and can continue the season with it, Hamilton is on his fourth with six more races left on the calendar.
On whether Hamilton will switch to a fifth engine, Wolff said:
“It [fourth ICE] can last until the end of the season, but there could be a moment where we say is it worth taking a fresh one because the other one is still at risk. So this is something that is going to be really a work in progress. Let's see how the points pan out. I would never say no, but normally four engines looks quite sufficient.” While their performance in Turkey did not suggest they needed a fifth engine for Hamilton, or a sixth for Bottas, it remains to be seen how their engine longevity remains unaffected, amidst a heated title battle.
Their performance in Turkey did not immediately suggest they needed a fifth engine for Hamilton, or a sixth for Bottas. However, it remains to be seen just how willing they'd be to take a chance on engine longevity amidst a heated title battle.