Lewis Hamilton will take a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix, after Mercedes fitted his W12 out with a fresh Internal Combustion Engine.
Unlike the majority of engine changes, Mercedes didn’t introduce new ancillaries such as the MGU-H, MGU-K or Turbocharger, and the simple replacement of the ICE element of the power unit means that Hamilton only takes a 10-place grid drop, rather than starting from the very back.
Speaking after the first practice session in Turkey, Mercedes’ Head of Trackside Engineering, Andrew Shovlin, explained why the team had made that call and why the decision was made for the Istanbul weekend.
“We’re simulating all the races to the end of the year and there’s a balance of the risk of a reliability issue,” Shovlin told Sky Sports F1.
“Obviously, the thing that you definitely don’t want to do is fail during a race, and then have to take a penalty anyway.
“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 is the bit that most contributes to that reliability element, and the performance is the ICE itself. It’s better to take 10 places than start from the back.”
However qualifying goes, Shovlin said that it’s very unlikely Mercedes will change any additional power unit parts this weekend.
“Unlikely, really, [because] it’s a lot of fairly intrusive work when you start changing some of those elements during the race weekend,” he explained.
“So we’re pretty happy with the decision that we’ve taken so far, and they’ll be likely what we’ll stick with.”
Istanbul Park is, in theory, one of the easier venues left on the calendar for overtaking, meaning that Hamilton shouldn’t find it too hard to exploit Mercedes’ outright pace.
Shovlin said the extra challenge for this weekend adds a fresh layer of excitement.
“Working out how easy it is to overtake, it’s actually quite hard, because you know in your own mind which are the tracks that are good for passing,” he commented.
“Sochi has got very long straights but we were struggling a bit with understeer and that made it tricky.
“This is a circuit, you remember Lewis and that GP2 race, where he felt there’s a lot of opportunity here, and it should make for an exciting Sunday!”
Having topped the times in FP1, Shovlin was asked whether the team might be kicking themselves after qualifying if it turns out that Hamilton has a big pace advantage over title rival Max Verstappen.
“That’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s a double-edged sword,” he said.
“It does make it easier to recover. Could it be a race that Lewis could have won from pole? Obviously, that balance is one of the things, but it is what it is, so we just need to make the most of getting back and hopefully even have an opportunity to win.”