New engine puts Lewis Hamilton on verge of grid penalties

Lewis Hamilton was second fastest in both Friday practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Steve Etherington

Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of earning engine-change grid penalties after taking a complete new Mercedes power unit ahead of Friday’s practice sessions in Austria.

Due to earlier problems, this means he is now on his fifth turbo, and fifth MGU-H. As soon as he takes a sixth example of either, penalties will result.

That might not happen in the short term, as he also has previously used examples which still have some life in them, and which can go back on the car. However, Hamilton is now resigned to collecting penalties at some point.

The new power unit will also be his fourth CE (control electronics), fourth ES (energy store), third ICE (the V6), and third MGU-K.

Nico Rosberg tops both Austrian GP practice sessions

Nico Rosberg is also taking a complete new power unit in Austria, but it represents only his third example of all six elements.

“I’m starting with my last engine this weekend,” said Hamilton. “And so I will have at least one race where I start dead last, most likely two probably, with two more new engines I have to take, the sixth and seventh.

“The worst thing is that I’m the only Mercedes driver to have that. For sure it’s difficult for us as a team, and it’s difficult considering that we are the Mercedes team, so if there were 40 engines you would hope that we would have the best of the 40. But that’s just the way it goes, and I have to do the best I can with the one I have now, and the hopefully the next one or two beyond that.

“For sure it’s not easy when you look at the table and you see the eight Mercedes drivers, and everyone else is on normal plan, everyone is on their second engine, and still has four left, and I have one left. For sure it doesn’t feel great, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

“I don’t fully understand why it’s happened, I just hope Mercedes grows from it, they learn something from the faults they’ve found on mine, and it doesn’t happen to the rest of the Mercedes Benz engines.”

Hamilton is hoping that any grid penalties will be taken at the more favorable tracks, in other words those where passing is easier.

“I will find out where I will take that penalty or penalties. I will try to look upon a circuit where I might be able to get furthest up, closest, or maybe a track where I might be able to catch up and even challenge for a win, that’s my thought process. I have to go into it thinking I can still win it. Could be safety cars, could be all sorts of things.

“I try to have an optimistic view on it, but it’s not that easy to overtake in some places, so the percentage chance of Nico winning and me finishing second or further back is obviously higher. But we’ll try to minimize firstly the engines have to take. It is what it is, you have to deal with it and try to wiggle your way through it.”

Meanwhile, Toto Wolff stressed that Mercedes is working hard to minimize Hamilton’s requirement for new power unit elements.

“I think it’s inevitable that he will get a penalty at a certain stage, and it really pisses me off,” said Wolff. “I wouldn’t say there will be two. The guys are so revved up, Andy Cowell is so motivated to sort it out, and I have zero doubts that they will sort it out.”