Hamilton win shows Mercedes “picked a good circuit” for engine penalty

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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[raceweekendpromotion]Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says the team’s decision to fit another new engine to Lewis Hamilton’s car, and accept the grid penalty that came with it, was vindicated by their Sao Paulo Grand Prix victory.

The team opted to install a fifth internal combustion engine (ICE) in Hamilton’s car ahead of qualifying on Friday. That meant he took a five-place grid penalty for the grand prix, after Saturday’s sprint qualifying race.

While team principal Toto Wolff explained the decision was made due to concerns over loss of performance with extended use, Shovlin confirmed that reliability was not a factor in Mercedes’s action.

“There wasn’t a technical reason to change, as in we didn’t think that we were at risk of failing and we don’t think that we’re at risk of failing,” Shovlin explained. “Although, you know, these power units are running awfully hard and you can never, never take reliability for granted.

“But there is an attraction to taking a penalty at a sprint race, because if you can win on the Saturday, that’s more points that you can score and you can lessen a deficit. This is also a track that we hoped would be one that we could overtake at and that we could recover positions. And we proved that in the last two days.”

Shovlin also pointed to the benefit of having an additional ICE unit to choose from over the critical final three rounds of the season, which concludes at Yas Marina next month.

“You want to get these things in the pool because by the time you get to Abu Dhabi you’re not going to get the advantage of it for more than a single race,” said Shovlin.

“So there’s a number of reasons – and it’s never black and white because you don’t know how the weekend is going to going to pan out. But on reflection, I think we picked a good circuit to do it.”

Hamilton suffered a further setback when he was disqualified from the results of qualifying due to a technical infringement on his rear wing. Mercedes quickly chose not to appeal against the decision on the basis of the strong performance they had seen in practice and qualifying.

From last on the grid in sprint qualifying, Hamilton rose to fifth by the end of the 24-lap race, putting him 10th on the grid for the grand prix after his engine penalty. Within five laps of the grand prix starting he was up to third place, which put him in position to challenge the Red Bull drivers for victory.

Shovlin said Mercedes suffered less from tyre degradation in the race compared to their Red Bull rivals, which proved crucial to Hamilton’s ability to catch and pass Max Verstappen to win the race.

“Importantly, we saw that we could sit behind a car,” said Shovlin. “We could do a good turn 12. We had good traction. And those are the ingredients that you need to be able to overtake here.

“But the other factor was that Max, at least, had much higher degradation and ran out of tyres early. And one of the key factors was that Lewis could follow. He could push Max. Max wasn’t able to save his tyres, and really, that was the deciding factor – the tyre degradation and Max dropping.”

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2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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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...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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24 comments on “Hamilton win shows Mercedes “picked a good circuit” for engine penalty”

  1. It’s reported that Hywel Thomas, chief engineer of Brixworth, has prepared an engine for Lewis that have a shorter life of 2,500 km compared to the 7,000 that normally are required for standard power unit. Other than to pushing the turbo, they also intervened on the pressure in the combustion chamber creating a great combo that can be worth over 15 horsepower as reported in Motorsport Italy.

    I think with added sprint races next year this is a great forward thinking by Mercedes. After the first 25 grid penalty from the first rule breaking, a five grid penalty looks manageable in a sprint weekend with far superior engine.

    1. How is this not in breach of the PU parity rules between suppliers and customers???

    2. Where is the official report from merc that this was what was done? Link please.

  2. I think we witnissed a full race on party mode.

    1. Absolutely, and a great strategical decision by vowles.

      1. Ops, shovlin it seems, it took me a while to understand his point about the sprint race, cause you only take the penalty in the real race.

    2. If you can’t beat them, cheat.

  3. They will take a new engine for each of the last 3 races and win comfortably. Don’t let the Mercedes errors of the beginning of the season trick you into believing RB had a fast car this year. The season was equal to the past 7 ones bar Max Verstappen. Unbelievable to see how one man can make the whole Mercedes team so nervous they almost gave the championship away. Quite funny when you think of it. But also understandable when you havent had competition for 7 years straight!

    1. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
      15th November 2021, 10:56

      I think this reasoning you have is purely for your own purposes or need. You need to think this because if you can contemplate the converse of what you saying what; what would you surmise over the season thus far.

      With no disregard towards what you saying I can see a number of races where Red Bull had Mercedes fully on the ropes – Zandvoort, Mexico and the 2 races held in Austria.

      1. “Zandvoort, Mexico and the 2 races held in Austria”
        Literally all the home races… Yeah, nothing fishy here!

      2. Just look at where the nr 2 driver finished when Lewis became WDC. Then look at where Perez is vs Verstappen. It’s a Mercedes narrative. They never were weaker, just in their composure.

        1. perez was at odds with the car for most of the season. He acknowledge that himself.
          To use his results to imply that Red Bull is a lesser car is very dishonest of you.

    2. Why can’t verstappen do the same then and have both recover with a super engine? Red bull aren’t that dumb to not try to counter them if it works.

  4. I don’t think it was just about the Mercedes engine, I think the Redbulls have previously created their advantagous strightline speed by minimising downforce and the associated drag that creates.

    Mercedes knew Redbull couldn’t do that in this circuit, so that also played into Mercedes hands. TAlso the new tech that Mercedes is sporting to automatically adjust the ride height will also be a cruitial factor on the coming races. [I wonder if that will also barred in future championships]. Its not just the engine. Mercedes is putting everything into these last couple of races.

    vorsprung der technique LOL

    1. I would say diffuser stalling is worth as much for top end as 20hp. Drag runs the show at those speeds.

  5. FIA: Maximum 3 ICE engine for 2021 season.
    Mercedes: 1 ICE engine for 3 races maximum.

    FIA please revise this engine penalty rule, now it’s getting meaningless to the initial objective – budget cap.

    1. 5 place grid drop when you get a car that passes with ease. Seems fair. (read sarcasm here)

      1. From what hamilton showed not even starting from the back in the actual race would hold them back with this engine!

  6. Who wanted to revise this rule when Honda were racking up 30 place penalties on the way to developing now the best PU?

  7. Just like with Vettel in the Ferarri, Max is going to feel the real difference between the Merc and the other teams. In Brasil they had to show more of their cards than they planned, but at least the real performance is shown now. The real performance difference is Perez taking the fastest lap with 2-step softer tires, with 25 laps less fuel. Hamilton did a lap less than a second slower while doing tire management, and half a second faster than Verstappen at a similar stage.

  8. So all of these new ICEs won’t put Hamilton over the cap?

  9. Written elsewhere the engine is not part of the cost cap. There was a fixed price applied for the whole season.

    RBR are free to do the same as is any other team.

    Rules is rules. Let them race. etc…

    1. I read yesterday dr. Marko saying they asked Honda about that but they did not believe it was a good choice to get those penalties and the new ICE in then run them harder.

      With Mercedes tending to having a bit less downforce but also more straightline speed, extending that advantage makes sense (while fixing the DF deficit means using aero development for this season instead of 2022; using the PU supplier research for that, not inside the budget cap, will benefit them potentially for next year anyway).

      For Red Bull it would bring them less, if they have more drag. And with them thus keeping a potential disadvantage in passing, evident too in Verstappen’s reluctance to be undercut because they knew they wouldn’t be able to pass, well, Honda might well be right that it would not be worth it.

      Keep in mind also the above reported extra effort (source was motorsport.it, quite detailed about what tweaks were done bc. the ICE needed to not do as much milage as others needed!) in tweaking the ICE to make it really work, might also be things that Honda either can’t or won’t want to do, having worked so hard to get their engines fast and reliable!

  10. Allan Fernandes
    16th November 2021, 6:19

    Mercedes instagram might include this in their race debrief in a few days maybe

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