Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2021

Honda “cannot believe” how many engine changes Mercedes have made

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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Honda F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe admitted that he was surprised how many replacement power unit parts Mercedes have fitted to their cars in the last stretch of the 2021 Formula 1 season.

Lewis Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix after taking his fifth new internal combustion engine (ICE) of the season. Valtteri Bottas is on his sixth ICE of the season.

“Yes, I’m very surprised,” Tanabe said. “They are changing the ICE frequently. So actually, I cannot believe what’s going on, on them. Why?”

“But from the PU manufacturers’ point of view, it’s kind of disappointing to get the PU penalty for the driver.”

The Honda-powered Red Bull Racing duo of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen have seen less frequent power unit element changes. Verstappen took a new power unit at Sochi, while Perez took a new power unit at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort. Tanabe said neither they nor fellow Honda users AlphaTauri should need to take further power units.

“No one knows the future, but [if] there is no unexpected accident or unexpected failure, we have no plans to put another PU to our four drivers,” he said.

Tanabe was also asked if he believes that Red Bull could have gone the whole season with only the allocated number of engines, were it not for the accident between Verstappen and Hamilton at the British Grand Prix.

He paused, and said, “I believe, yes.”

“So far, our four cars with Red Bull Racing and then AlphaTauri are performing well toward the end of the season.”

“We feel a bit confident, looking back [on] our recent few races, so we keep pushing as usual – and then prepare everything for any type of accident or unexpected situation.”

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2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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17 comments on “Honda “cannot believe” how many engine changes Mercedes have made”

  1. Just imagine 5 years ago the Honda PU guy saying Mercedes screwed up badly

    1. I know right!!

      Honda have over-engineered things before, once when a road-bike was sub-par and its successor was a total beast. I feel like that’s what they’ve done here. They’re a great company.

    2. @paeschli They’ve made some incredible progress, considering they began from a point at which, frankly the engine didn’t really work in any meaningful way. And then they go quit the sport and pass it over to a customer.

    3. Imagine if the FIA did not let mercedes have a 3 year advantage of engine development before choosing the hybrid engine….
      I wonder why the FIA made this choice. Hum.

      1. Every now and then, I come across this kind of history revisionism and just shake my head. Do you really believe Mercedes had 3 years exclusive PU development time compared to the other engine makers?

  2. Yes. The “earth dreams” people are now flexing on Mercedes. It’s a new day. I wonder if Mercedes will get their PUs sorted for next year.

  3. Mentioned this on another article but Horner confirmed Max has 3 engines in the pool. The only one they can’t use is the one damaged in Silverstone.

    Hamilton only has 2 – the new one and the one they’ve taken out that is apparently down on power.

    That means Max has only lost 1 engine (due to a crash) whereas Hamilton has lost 3, I assume due to reliability issues.

    1. Heard Horner say the same. It seems it’s more a question of Mercedes losing power that risking a kablamo. I could speculate that since the end of party mode they just can’t run the car at low enough power to beat rbr on Saturday but also keep the ices in good shape. And have probably had it turned up to 11 for long periods to try to win races like France and Austin.

      1. @dmw – Yeah good point. Could just be them having competition finally and they have had to push the engine harder than they ever have.

    2. @petebaldwin
      from the sounds of it, it’s not technically reliability. It seems that the power output performance is the issue. That in turn could be excessive wear that could potentially become a reliability issue. None the less, it looks to be a significant performance drop over its usage (more significant than the design specs say). It also seems to be a relatively new issue so maybe a bad batch of material/parts? Or a design oversight.

      1. Yeah true – point still stands though. Red Bull’s engines are fine but Mercedes are no longer usable due to a lack of power. They’ve definitely got issues…..

        1. @petebaldwin
          Indeed, curious to see if this continues into next year. If it’s performance only, they won’t be able to fix it with the current engine design lock. If it’s reliability, then they can fix it within that agreement.

      2. Mercedes “turn down” the engine over succeeding races to improve reliability (reduce the probability of catastrophic failure).

  4. Gave them flashbacks to their mclaren days

  5. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    12th November 2021, 21:36

    “GP2 Engine” comes to mind :^)

  6. Sounds fishy.

  7. So basically Mercedes build a benchmark engine for the start of hybrid PU, then no more evolution and revolution (out of creative idea), until competitor matches that, then they trying to crank up to 110% and found out it’s unsustainable? Meanwhile this season’s Honda uses some creative coating technique for the ICE (read from the start of season) which gives them higher compression and thermal efficiency…

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