Mercedes attributes penalties to question marks over components

Mercedes’ recent power unit penalties have been partly due to question marks regarding the performance of its components.

Valtteri Bottas took a new power unit in Italy and climbed through the field to finish third after winning the Sprint qualifying session, but then picked up another grid penalty for a fifth set of components in Russia. Team principal Toto Wolff says the changes are not simply to have more fresh power units available, but also to understand issues with items that were recently introduced.

“We haven’t only made the precautionary engine change because we felt we want to stockpile, but also because we wanted to understand the engine’s performance, and that has given us some question marks,” Wolff said. “At the moment we just take it one race weekend at a time, and reassess the performance of the power unit and then take decisions.

“At the moment we are reassessing the performance of the power units because we have question marks and therefore haven’t decided which engines would go back into the pool.

“That’s why we’re having a few balls in the air, because you need to have the right balance between making sure that you really sort out all the gremlins that you have in the power unit, not only for this year but also for next year’s power unit. Definitely we are in a phase of assessment of how to continue the season in terms of power units.”

Before winning in Russia, Lewis Hamilton said he didn’t expect to take a penalty himself at any stage this season, but Wolff admits the team has to weigh up the risks of using high mileage power units in such a tight championship battle.

“Reliability versus performance is always the fine line that you need to get right,” he said. “DNFing is obviously a no-go for the championship and nobody, neither us nor our competitors, can afford a zero-point race weekend.”