Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2021

Mercedes “maybe stretched too much” with power unit after 2019

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In the round-up: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes their recent power unit reliability problems may have arisen from pushing too hard with their development since their close fight with Ferrari in 2019.

In brief

Wolff: Mercedes have lost reliability in hunt for performance

Lewis Hamilton has a five-pace grid penalty for today’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, the latest in a series Mercedes and its customers have incurred this year.

Wolff believes the situation is a legacy of the competition they faced two years year. “We were pushed very hard in 2019 and came with a power unit in 2020 that was right there,” he explained. “But maybe it stretched us too much. And if you are in the constant pursuit of performance, sometimes reliability falls behind.”

Power unit development will be frozen next year. Wolff said the team “need to push hard” between now and then to ensure they aren’t left at a disadvantage to their rivals.

“We are fighting an extremely potent and reliable Honda engine,” said Wolff. “And these guys have put all the resource that you could potentially deploy on this last season – fair enough – and that will continue to be the power unit in the next few years in a frozen manner.

“Therefore, we just need to make sure that next year we start with an engine that is as good in performance as we have now, but then it can actually go through the seasons without incurring engine penalties.”

Ocon surprised by sprint turnaround

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Interlagos, 2021
Ocon took ninth in sprint qualifying
Esteban Ocon said his Alpine’s strong pace around Interlagos showed their fight with AlphaTauri for fifth place in the constructors’ title is far from over.

“We overtook Daniel [Ricciardo] into turn one and two around the outside, overtook Fernando [Alonso] on the launch,” Ocon recounted. “It was a very surreal race – we got lapped by AlphaTauri in Mexico, this week, we put the pressure on them.

“In three or four laps, I probably would have got Gasly,” Ocon continued. “So it’s a very decent race. It does give us confidence because we didn’t have an easy two last races, but we are pretty pleased to see that it’s working like it should here.”

Karate child on oxygen inspired Hamilton

After racing from last on the grid to fifth in just five laps, Hamilton described how he found inspiration in a photograph of a child facing adversity.

“We’re all faced at some point in our lives with adversity, right?” said Hamilton. “And that’s not the point in which you give up. You’ve just got to keep going, you’ve got to keep your head up and you’ve got to keep fighting.

“I take inspiration from so many different people out there. I saw this picture of this kid that was doing a karate competition, but he was on oxygen, but that wouldn’t hold him back. And I thought that was really inspiring.

“So I kind of use those things, those stories that are out there to fuel the tank. And then, again, the fans today.”

Ricciardo rues turn one decision in sprint qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo said his sprint qualifying race was shaped by a misjudgement at the first corner.

“I lost two positions on the first lap. The initial getaway was alright, the start was decent, I remember.

“But I just chose the inside for turn one and from memory it was the lane that got bottled up a bit more and drivers who chose the outside just had a longer, clearer run into braking and could go later and deeper and yeah, just kind of sitting ducks.” Ricciardo said he was “obviously not happy with my decision to go on the inside”.

From then on Ricciardo said he was “stuck in that DRS train”, in which he lost a place to the recovering Hamilton. “I think I was quicker than the couple of cars ahead, but couldn’t really do much, so [I’m] disappointed.”

He intends to change his turn one tactics on Sunday. “Obviously one bad first lap is enough for a weekend, so I don’t plan on replicating that tomorrow.

“I’ll be the guy that has an amazing first lap tomorrow and then we’ll set ourselves up well. So that’s all I’m thinking right now, the first 60 seconds of lap one and then that’ll prepare my race.”

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Comment of the day

As frustrating as fans might find exclusions based on technicalities, Denis says that F1 needs to enforce its rules strictly, to be genuinely fair.

Anyone remember Daniel Ricciardo being disqualified from Singapore 2019 Grand Prix qualifying for power breach? It was power spike of 0.0001 kW for a split second over allowed 120kW and Renault gave the stewards reasonable explanation why.

There is no room for wiggle in this type of situations, you give in to the teams once and they will abuse rules forever.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Sridhar!

On this day in motorsport

  • 25 years ago today newly-crowned world champion Damon Hill, who was moving from Williams to Arrows, crashed at Suzuka’s hairpin while testing Bridgestone’s tyres for the first time in a Ligier JS41

Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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  • 17 comments on “Mercedes “maybe stretched too much” with power unit after 2019”

    1. Some say “Enter Sandman” was written after metallica met a mercedes car dealer by the name of another band.

      1. …but all we know is, he’s called The Toto Wolff.

    2. Imagine Mercedes can’t fix the issue, engine freeze start 2022, staying with the reliability issues till 2025, the repeat of familiar Raikkonen’s McLaren-Mercedes reliability problem.

      1. @papaya I hope this possibility won’t come true.

      2. You know who will leave soon if that happens ofc.

        1. Any driver who is interested in winning, rather than just turning up?

    3. I hope COTD’s suggested possibility won’t come true.

      1. Silly me, I thought of an entirely different post, which caused a mix-up, so here’s what I intended:
        COTD is correct. Technical rules are technical rules, which always lead to exclusion when breached.
        Therefore, an exception would set an unideal precedent.

    4. The COTD was 100% correct, if you give F1 teams an inch they’ll take 1,000 miles – there can be no leeway on these things. The car either complies or it doesn’t. F1 is about fine margins.

      The Ricciardo 2019 example was one I was thinking about all weekend, together with the minor infringement that saw both Saubers disqualified from the 2011 Australian GP.

      1. @geemac

        Toto Wolff needs a dose of reality at times. This season, he has shown, at various times that he’s been ensconced in a bubble, reinforced by 7 years of little to no competition. Mercedes are finally getting pushed, and they dont like it, and it appears that their leader, is incapable of dealing with pressure when applied.

        His response to the penalty yesterday was ridiculous. How did it not make sense? This is F1, everything is measured to the nth degree.

        Lets be honest, Toto walked into a team that was ready to win. Ross Brawn did all the ground work, Toto reaped the rewards. I dont deny that he has made astute hires over the years to maintain the advantage, but the truth remains that didn’t put his time into building up a team, or himself for that matter, and that makes a difference. People that typically come it at the top and get an “easy ride” typically aren’t setup to face adversity, because, well they haven’t had to as such. Some people react well, other dont. Look, I don’t know Toto Wolff personally and what he’s been through to get to where he is, but his career in F1 is quite unconventional to say the least.

    5. I believe there is nothing wrong with Mercedes’ engine. It is just an excuse for a tactic to get more power from a fresh engine. The penalty of just 5 grid places now is easily overcome by the power gains as was demonstrated by Lewis by overtaking 15 cars in 24 laps while others only managed one or two places.

      1. At a place like Brazil, the damage of a grid penalty is obviously going to be mitigated by the ease of overtaking and also by the sheer number of laps in which to do it. But they’d never have taken the hit if they didn’t have to. If verstappen gets the lead, he’ll be long gone by the time Hamilton gets up there.

        1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
          14th November 2021, 9:42

          Even following Valtteri they were 17 seconds ahead of Carlos. So I think you are correct whether in the lead or second.

          MB will hope Valtteri doesn’t wave Max through this time! :)

    6. Someone is a bit over optimistic

      After racing from last on the grid to fifth in just five laps,

    7. Where are all the people that were claiming the title has just been given to Verstappen? Where are all those charming people saying the title fight was done? Where did you guys all go!

      Hamilton drove around everyone like they were in a different formula and no matter how close the ‘dominant’ Red Bull got to Bottas of all people, on a track where overtaking is possible, Verstappen couldn’t pass. I’d say there’s a good 50/50 chance of Hamilton winning this race easily.

      1. I wrote a long time ago who I thought was going to win.

        This seems to of been such a spiteful year that which ever driver is in the lead if it there is just 6 points in it I think there will be a racing incident. There will be a professional foul.

    8. For the sake of Aston, McLaren and Williams they need MB to get the engine sorted out. It will be painful if they have good cars knowing they will be thwarted by unreliability.

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