Fierce battle against grid penalties – tight engine allocation

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As Formula One is approaching Round 13 of the season, the Belgian Grand Prix, several drivers are in danger of facing grid drop penalties later in the year for exceeding their power unit allocation.

Despite to the Mercedes-powered teams are looking safe in terms of engine components, quite a few drivers could face issues with their power unit allocations in the closing stages of the season.

Power unit regulations have been made even stricter for this year compared to the previous seasons. Each driver is permitted three Internal Combustion Engines, MGU-Hs and Turbochargers, and just two Energy Stores, Control Electronics and MGU-Ks. Under the current Sporting Regulations drivers are penalised should they exceed their season allocation of power unit components.

The last race before the summer break, the Hungarian Grand Prix marked the 12th race weekend of the 2019 season. The current state of the power unit allocations for the field indicated that it would be difficult for several drivers to complete the season without taking additional PU elements.

Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hülkenberg, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat, George Russell and Kevin Magnussen have already exceeded their allocations, leading to different grid drop penalties. However, some of them were tactical choices to give the drivers greeter freedom in the second half of the season.

Sebastian Vettel’s penalty during the German Grand Prix weekend was one of the tactically inspired move. After his engine problems during the qualifying session which forced the four-time world champion to sit out the session for his home race, Ferrari decided to install a fresh control electronics in to the German’s SF90 as he had already been on the bubble for that PU component. As he could not set any time in the session and had to line up 20th on the grid, his penalty could not change his starting position.

Mercedes continue to dominate the sport in terms of engine reliability. Even if Valtteri Bottas had issues in Hungary and his team had to install a new control electronics and energy stroe in to the Finn’s Mercedes W10, the German manufacturer is excelling with its reliable power units. Their customers, Racing Point and Williams have also used less PU elements than their rivals.

Ferrari had problems with its control electronics, forcing the Italian team to introduce fresh units early in the season. It could see some of the Ferrari-powered cars exceeding their allocations in the closing stage of the campaign. Renault has had engine issues of different natures so far the year what forced both the works team and McLaren to take up additional elements and serve penalties. Despite making significant improvements in terms of reliability, Honda has also experiences a few issues, especially with Toro Rosso.

The hungriest Grand Prix

The Canadian Grand Prix has been the first major scene for the introdcution of fresh power unit components over the last seasons. The slot of the venue on the calendar and the power-sensitivity of the Montreal semi-street circuit means that teams usually chose Canada to introduce their first engine upgrade.

This year saw no change to this trend with several engine manufacturers having given debut to their fine-tuned power units in the seventh race venue of the season. This first significant development step revolved around the internal combustion engine, the turbocharger and the MGU-H. Ferrari was the only manufacturer to split the introduction of its first engine upgrade. The Italian marque debuted a new combustion engine in the first European race, the Spanish Grand Prix to make this development complete with a new, modified turbocharger in Canada.

As in previous years, the first race after the summer break, the Belgian Grand Prix is expected to turn into a festival of the second-specification power units.