Power unit usage ahead of the last runs of the 2016 season

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The 2016 F1 Championship is shaping up to its final destination with only two races to go. With strict restrictions on power unit usage for this season, some teams are already on the verge of penalties while some others have managed to fight through the season well within the maximum dictated by the Sporting Regulation.

The Sporting Regulation for the 2016 season limits the number of powertrains usable this year in four units. However, the increased number of championship rounds meant it was raised to five.

Each power unit consists of six different elements: internal combustion engine, MGU-K, MGU-H, energy store, control electronics and turbocharger. During the season, teams have the possibility to play with the various components which are already in the pool, they can pair the components in a way they want to.

Teams still have two races to complete as the season ends with the Brazil and Abu Dhabi GP. However, the table of the PU components used until this point of the season shows some patterns.

Mercedes stands out from the engine manufacturers not only with its power output advantage and incredible packaging of the power unit, but also with its reliability.

Having claimed that, Lewis Hamilton had various reliability woes in two qualifying sessions early in the season and another fatal engine failure in Malaysia a couple of weeks ago. The early failures urged the team to come up with a strategical move around the mid-point of the year to build up a pool for the triple world champion for the later stages of the season.

Nico Rosberg has had less problems to cope with. The German is on his last internal combustion engine which was used in Austin and Mexico. The team has taken safety measures with special engine modes to ensure the ICE holds on for the championship leader.

Mercedes’ superiority gets ominous when looking at the data of its customer teams. Manor, Force India and Williams set the target at the start of the year not to use the fifth power unit and sticking to the original plan of four. The squads wanted to cut costs with that strategy and gave up some of the competitive advantage which new powertrains can provide.
The frightening reliability of Mercedes bodes well for the German manufacturer for next seasons as more constraints on the usage of power units will be introduced.

Honda’s reliability has improved from last year, but it still needed to put power units into the pool for both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. The manufacturer claimed that it was mainly for development reasons as it constantly introduced upgrades to its power unit. The Spanish driver’s frightening number of components was mainly for tactical reasons as Honda introduced a series of new components in Austin to fill the pool of Alonso up. Despite to the claims of the Japanese engine-maker, it needs to raise its game and make inroads in terms of reliability for next year.

Renault made the most visible improvement over the winter in terms of reliability. The French manufacturer only supplies its own works team and Red Bull with power unit this year after it terminated the contract with Toro Rosso for 2015. The Renault power unit is estimated to lack of around 40 hp compared to field-leading Mercedes. Neither of the four drivers using Renault engines has needed to use any extra components.

However, Ferrari’s situation is different. The Italian team has had various issues with its power unit. Toro Rosso which uses Ferrari’s 2015 power units has had a good reliability with only a few glitches which mainly concerned Carlos Sainz.

Sauber and newcomer Haas avoided any big power unit woes, all four drivers have still more new components to use in the remainder of the season. Only Marcus Ericsson was struck by unreliability issues, the Swede had a ten-place penalty for the use of the sixth turbocharger.

Despite to the pretty satisfying reliability for the customers squads, works team Ferrari experienced a series of issues especially with Sebastian Vettel. The German had suspension woes in the qualifying for the Singapore GP and had to start the race from the last row. The fabled Italian team capitalized on that and introduced new components to build up a pool for the quadruple driver which can drive him through until the end of the season.

Kimi Räikkönen has introduced most of the components of his last power unit recently, but his turbocharger is a rather old part which makes it almost impossible for the Finn to escape a ten-place grid penalty on the next race weekend.