Mercedes explains Hamilton’s grid penalty

Lewis Hamilton will take a 10-place grid penalty at the Turkish Grand Prix as a result of exceeding limits on power unit components.

Honda had made clear it would take a new power unit for Max Verstappen at some stage this season and duly did so in Russia where he climbed through from the back of the grid to finish second. At the time, Hamilton and Mercedes stated there was no guarantee it would have to do the same, and Hamilton even went as far as saying he didn’t expect a penalty on Thursday in Turkey.

“At the moment I still have number two and three, so I don’t envisage us having to take one at the moment but that could change, who knows?” Hamilton said.

However, once the cars rolled out for FP1 in Istanbul on Friday morning, it was confirmed that Hamilton had taken a fourth internal combustion engine (ICE) and as a result would receive a 10-place grid penalty.

The ICE is the only new component that Mercedes has taken so far this weekend, with the team keen to try and capitalize on strong performance potential and believing the ICE is the main differentiator that it had reliability concerns about. However, any further new components would carry an additional five-place penalty until Hamilton could reach a back-of-the-grid start.

“We’re sort of simulating all the races until the end of the year and there’s the balance of the risk of a reliability issue. Obviously the thing you definitely don’t want to do is fail during a race and then have to take a penalty anyway,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin told Sky Sports. “Then there’s also a performance element, because the power units do lose a bit of horsepower over their life. Now the 10-place penalty, the bit that most contributes to the reliability and the performance is the ICE itself, and it’s better to take 10 places than start at the back.

“Working out how easy it is to overtake is actually quite hard, because you know in your own mind which of the tracks are good for passing. Sochi has got a very long straight but we were struggling a bit with understeer, that made it tricky. But this is a circuit — remember Lewis in that GP2 race (in 2006), he felt there was a lot of opportunity here and it should make for an exciting Sunday.”

On the potential for further penalties this weekend, Shovlin added: “Unlikely, really.

“It’s a lot of fairly intrusive work when you start changing those elements during a race weekend, so we’re pretty happy with the decision that we’ve taken so far and it’ll be likely what we’ll stick with.”

Carlos Sainz will start from the back of the grid on Sunday as a result of receiving Ferrari’s updated power unit, following Charles Leclerc doing the same in Russia.