Coming to the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, several drivers are closing in on the limits in terms of the maximum number of power unit parts with nine races left to go in the 2018 championship.
Drivers are heavily limited in how many power unit parts they are allowed to use during a season. The power unit is deemed to consist of six different parts: internal combustion engine, MGU-K, MGU-H, turbocharger, control electronics and energy store. In the 2018 Formula One World Championship, drivers have access to three ICE, turbochargers and MGU-H and to two pieces from the other three elements.
For the Belgian Grand Prix, many drivers received fresh elements as this race together with the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix are considered as the most power sensitive tracks due the time spent at full throttle.PU elements used prior to the Belgian Grand Prix
Mercedes introduces its third-spec engine
Mercedes installed a new ICE, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K in Lewis Hamilton's car. This means that the Briton reached the maximum number of elements for all PU parts and any further change would trigger a grid penalty. With those changes, Mercedes introduced its third-spec engine which it considered to bring a gain of two tenths per lap.
Valtteri Bottas received a complete fresh power unit. After his engine woes in early summer, the Finn was already on the bubble regarding every PU element and the latest change will force Bottas to start Sunday’s race from the back end of the grid.
Mercedes planned the timing of penalty for taking fresh elements for Bottas’ car carefully. The team informed the technical delegate about the internal combustion engine change on 20 August 2018, at 18:42 hours.
Ferrari with dilemma
To react on Mercedes’ engine upgrade, Ferrari also popped up with its last significant PU development of the season. The Italians installed a fresh ICE in both cars. Vettel also got a fresh turbocharger and MGU-H which means that the German has no fresh unit left for the season, any further changes will result in a penalty.
Kimi Räikkönen is to introduce his last MGU-H which Ferrari is likely to do in parallel with the introduction of a new turbocharger. However, the Finn has already used three turbochargers which is the maximum number of that PU element. After the 2007 champion hit reliability problems in the Spanish Grand Prix and his final and third turbocharger was put into the pool for the Canadian GP, he will surly require a fourth turbocharger. Ferrari was believed to take the penalty for exceeding the limits at his weekend as Spa-Franchorchamps offers relatively easy overtaking opportunities and the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix is less ideal, being the home race for the Scuderia.
Ferrari is also believed to have received new fuel from its supplier Shell. This is thought to be extremely difficult to produce and hence very expensive which means that only the works cars have access to the new fuel while its customer teams Haas and Sauber-Alfa Romeo stick to the previous version.
Nico Hülkenberg faces the same fate to Bottas. The Renault team installed a completely fresh power unit in the German’s car, resulting in a penalty which sends Hülkenberg to the very back of the grid for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ two customer teams Force India and Williams also introduced several new PU elements after using their previous ones for a long period of time. In terms of reliability, these two teams stand out, achieving it with using probably less aggressive engine modes compared to the works Mercedes to avoid any risk of being forced to introduce an expensive new power unit.
Red Bull is believed to take on fresh PU parts in the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix, although the Milton Keynes-based squad is still unsure about the potential gain of Renault's last-specification engine.