Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned that Sir Lewis Hamilton is still at risk of another engine penalty this season.
The seven-time World Champion used a fourth internal combustion engine (ICE) for the Turkish Grand Prix, resulting in him being handed a 10-place grid drop.
After being fastest in qualifying, Hamilton started the race in P11 and finished the grand prix in P5, while his Championship rival Max Verstappen finished second to retake his position at the top of the Drivers’ Standings.
Wolff has warned that the Brit could have to serve another grid drop this season, as there is still a chance they may need to run another fresh power unit on Hamilton’s car.
“Yes, but there could be a moment when you say ‘is it worth taking a fresh one because the other one is still at risk’, so this is something that will be really a work in progress,” the Mercedes team boss replied when asked if Hamilton’s fourth power unit could last the remainder of the 2021 season.
“I would very much hope not, but there are seven tough races in front of us. Let’s see how the points pan out and I would never say no. But normally, four engines looks quite sufficient.”
As for Mercedes’ decision to put a new internal combustion engine in Hamilton’s car this week, Wolff said they had no choice as a DNF would be a “total killer” for the Brit’s Championship fight with Verstappen.
“We had to do it. We saw some data on the internal combustion engine that didn’t look very promising and a DNF is a total killer for the Championship,” he said.
“We have seen over the course of the season that we have some little gremlins that we weren’t completely sure where they came from and how much performance they could potentially cost. We would rather have a new engine in the pool that can possibly go longer.
“I think we understand much better now where the root cause lies and it’s something that can happen from time to time if you just have a material issue, a batch problem, and these are the things you need to consider.”