Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff does not rule out the possibility that Lewis Hamilton will switch to his fourth engine of the season in Turkey next weekend and incur a grid penalty for the race at Istanbul Park.
Max Verstappen had to start the previous race in Russia from the back as he had switched to his fourth power unit of the season. The Red Bull driver was in no doubt that a fourth engine would be involved this year, having previously lost a copy in his major crash at the British Grand Prix. However, the Dutchman kept the damage well limited at the Sochi Autodrom: he fought his way from the last starting place and came second at the finish after a soaking final phase.
Whether Lewis Hamilton will need a fourth power unit this season is still unclear. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said during the weekend in Russia that taking a fourth engine was not planned. “At the moment it looks good. We look closely at current engines to see if there are any reliability issues. But at the moment that is not the case,” said the Austrian. “If you don’t make it for a weekend or start from the back anyway due to an accident, you can easily take a motor grid penalty. But to put in a new engine as a precaution and incur a grid penalty, no, we do not intend to do that.”
However, in the run-up to the Turkish Grand Prix, Wolff does not rule out the possibility of a motor penalty being taken on the track near Istanbul. “It’s a possibility,” Toto Wolff told Sky Sports News on Monday . He emphasizes that at the moment no decision has been made about whether or not to collect a grid penalty for switching to a new engine. Wolff: “When and how, no decision has been made yet.”
Wolff realizes that a breakdown due to a motor problem can have greater consequences than taking a grid penalty for a fourth motor in the pool. “The most important thing is that you don’t get DNF because of a reliability problem. Being second or third once is fine. The championship is long. But if you don’t finish… So we’re looking at the parameters of the bikes to make sure we don’t get hit with a reliability issue.”
With seven races to go in 2021, Hamilton leads the championship with 246.5 points. However, the difference with Verstappen is only two points. A year ago Hamilton secured his seventh world title in Turkey by winning the race at Istanbul Park after having started sixth.