Why Verstappen has taken an F1 engine penalty and Hamilton hasn't

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has explained why the decision was taken to give Max Verstappen a new power unit at Formula 1's Russian GP.

Why Verstappen has taken an F1 engine penalty and Hamilton hasn't

Verstappen changed all his Honda power unit elements between FP1 and FP2 at Sochi, and the Dutchman will thus start Sunday's race from the back of the grid.

All teams are under pressure to switch their drivers to a fourth power unit as it becomes increasingly clear that it will be difficult to make the end of the season without a change, now that the full calendar has been confirmed.

Pushing mileage risks reliability issues, while performance also tapers off the more a power unit is used.

Verstappen was in an even more difficult position than most after one of his units suffered damage in the crash on the first lap of the British GP, so his team knew that a change was inevitable.

The Dutchman came to Russia with a three-place grid penalty after his incident with Lewis Hamilton at Monza. With Mercedes traditionally on strong form in Sochi, the decision was made to take the hit this weekend.

Marko has also revealed that the team has the option to change only two elements – believed to be the V6 and the turbo – which would have resulted in just a 10-place hit. However, it was eventually decided to change everything, a move that automatically sends a driver to the back of the grid.

"Mercedes being so strong here, let's say we finish third in qualifying," Marko told Motorsport.com. "Plus three is six, so 16, because we could have changed with only 10 places penalty, we had that choice.

"But between 16 and 20 doesn't make a difference. So we chose to take everything. It's safety, and you can attack in the coming races. You don't have to worry."

Asked what Verstappen can achieve in Sunday's race, he said: "Qualifying doesn't matter for us. So we will focus on race set-up. It's depending on how the race is going, is there a safety car or not?

"On the other hand, nobody thought that you could overtake in Zandvoort, and [Sergio] Perez went up to I think eighth place with an extra stop. I think a lot of things are possible."

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that his team has no immediate plans to equip Hamilton with a fourth power unit.

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas took a new engine at Monza and, having won the sprint qualifying event, he started the grand prix from the back of the grid.

Wolff insisted that Mercedes wants to make the most of its strong form at Sochi and bag maximum points for Hamilton, who was second fastest behind Bottas on Friday.

"I think we have a good opportunity here," Wolff told Motorsport.com. "If everything goes to plan that we are starting in the front, and hopefully can have a strong points finish.

"I think at the moment we're just looking at the development of the power unit in terms of signs of reliability issues, which are not yet there. So we're taking it from weekend to weekend."

Unlike Verstappen and Bottas, Hamilton has not suffered power unit damage in an accident, so he has more leeway.

Read Also:

However, Wolff acknowledged that it will be tricky to get the timing of any penalty right.

"Exactly. And there can be a weekend where you are totally off, or you're caught in an accident, and you're starting at the back anyway. So I think taking a power unit prematurely is not something that we would want to do."

Honda's latest power unit package includes a new spec energy store, an example of which Verstappen already took without penalty at Spa.

Ferrari also has an upgraded power unit at Sochi, which has been given to Leclerc. Like Verstappen, the Monegasque driver will be at the back of the grid.

Wolff said that Mercedes made its permitted upgrades at the start of the season, and thus there will be no performance gain for Hamilton, other than that associated with mileage.

"The truth is we don't know what the others do. It's just noise. For us, it's important to choose the right time for upgrades. And we have done that at the beginning of the year.

"We're happy with how we've done it, and it's a close fight, you can see that everybody's suffering from some kind of reliability issues, or bringing developments late."

shares
comments

Related video

Hamilton: Mercedes must capitalise on Verstappen F1 penalty
Previous article

Hamilton: Mercedes must capitalise on Verstappen F1 penalty

Next article

F1 Form Guide: Russian Grand Prix

F1 Form Guide: Russian Grand Prix
Load comments
How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in F1 2021 battle Prime

How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in F1 2021 battle

Supremacy in the McLaren vs Ferrari fight over third place in the constructors’ championship has ebbed and flowed between the two teams so far in the 2021 Formula 1 season. But for several key reasons, right now it seems the advantage has swung decisively back to the Scuderia and McLaren knows it.

The details that boosted Verstappen and held back Hamilton in Austin Prime

The details that boosted Verstappen and held back Hamilton in Austin

As the 2021 Formula 1 title battle winds towards its climax, the United States GP added another thrilling act in the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle. Although Hamilton aced the start, Verstappen and Red Bull took the initiative with strategy and were richly rewarded, despite Mercedes' best efforts as the race went down to the wire

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
US Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a baking hot afternoon in Texas, Formula 1 drivers were tested to their limits. As the pressure on the title contending squads reaches an ever-greater level of intensity, the foremost challengers again showed their class, but were outshone by a standout drive from the upper midfield

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Prime

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Why a misunderstood Kimi Raikkonen will thrive in retirement Prime

Why a misunderstood Kimi Raikkonen will thrive in retirement

Three years on from Kimi Raikkonen's last Grand Prix victory at Austin, he is now six races away from ending the longest Formula 1 career in history. His friend and former Ice1 Racing rally team PR man Anthony Peacock explains why there’s nobody quite like the 2007 world champion and why F1 will miss him (but he won’t miss it).

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
How Verstappen has become F1 champion material Prime

How Verstappen has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle Prime

Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be set to be another close contest.

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen Prime

The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen

The 2021 Formula 1 title battle is finely poised with six races remaining, as just six points separate championship leader Max Verstappen from seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. In such a closely-fought season, the outcome could hinge on several small factors playing the way of Red Bull or Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021