Ferrari to hold back its engine upgrades

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Italy, Autodromo Nazionale di Monzait

Ferrari confirmed it will not introduce new engine in this weekend’s Italian GP, instead it intends to extend the development time of its fourth and most likely final specification power unit for the 2017 Championship.

Mercedes shocked the field in Spa a week ago when it brought its latest power unit specification. The Belgian GP was the last race before FIA’s new technical directive regarding the maximum amount of usable oil comes into effect.

Engines which were introduced before this weekend’s Italian GP are allowed to use1.2 litre of oil in 100km. Following the allegations that Mercedes and Ferrari were burning oil while using their special engine modes, the FIA wanted to clamp down on the amount of usable fuel. According to the new technical directive, engines introduced after the Italian GP may use up to 0.9l of oil per 100km. However, the previous amount remains the limit for the former engines being already in the pool.

Some claimed that engine makers made a gentlemen’s agreement according to which no manufacturer would have introduced new engines in the Belgian GP. Mercedes, however, introduced its latest engine in Spa which means they can stick to the 1.2 litre limit with all their engines.

According to the measurements, the performance gain Mercedes gets from the plus 0.3 litre of fuel is worth around 0.15 seconds on a qualifying lap and at most 5 seconds over a whole race distance.

Ferrari was expected to introduce its last specification engine for its home Grand Prix in a bid to decrease its slight power deficit to Mercedes. However, the Italian team will not use new engines in Monza, they will instead run the unit they introduced in Silverstone and used in the following Hungarian and Belgian GP. This unit is also set to complete its fourth appearance.

“We don’t have a new engine for this weekend,” Sebastian Vettel confirmed it in FIA’s press conference on Thursday.

The German quadruple champion is confident that Ferrari's decision will bear fruit later in the season.

"I think for us we are pretty much on target. I think it would be quite silly to miss for that, if that was your purposes, just for one week, so I think we are on plan, but as I said, I don’t know whether that was their sole intention or whether they had other issues."

Ferrari’s decision to postpone the introduction of its final engine is risky and brave in short term. It gives up on the possible power gain and continues to use an engine on the power sensitive Monza race circuit which has already completed three races and therefore may have lost some performance because of its wear.

However, the Maranello-based team gains few weeks of development. The next race will take place in Singapore where small gains on the engine side do not make a significant difference, so the introduction of the final engine would make sense in the following Malaysian GP. It would bring five weeks of extra development time for Ferrari compared with its rival Mercedes.