McLaren are weighing up when to take the upgraded Renault B-Spec PU, knowing that grid penalties are looming.
Daniel Ricciardo was given the more powerful engine for the French GP – he would finish P7 before two five-second time penalties demoted him to P11.
Nico Hulkenberg didn’t take the upgraded PU to avoid a grid drop, and the same fate would have befallen Carlos Sainz if McLaren had given him the new engine which was available.
The team also decided not to run the upgraded unit on Lando Norris’ car as they look to manage the risk of engine penalties later in the campaign, and after showing solid pace at the Circuit Paul Ricard, McLaren now face a dilemma over when they do accept the Renault upgrade.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said: “It is still something we are working out at the moment. We have to collect the data again after France, and then we have to work out our plan.
“And especially what does it mean in terms of penalties until the end of the year with the different scenarios that are around.”
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Sainz suffered an MGU-K failure at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, and now that he has reached his quota of three engines this season, McLaren know they must think strategically when they give him the upgrade as it automatically will earn him a grid drop.
“As soon as Carlos is going for the upgrade then we get the penalty, because it is the fourth one. So we need to figure out now when we do that.
“That is unfortunately part of the game. But it is the same for the others around. We have seen others are taking penalties already now, so we have to see.
“But the engine is a good step. It is encouraging to see that Renault is bringing updates.”
Seidl revealed that McLaren had no interest in taking the upgrade at the French Grand Prix because it would make it a near certainty that they would need another engine before the season is up.
“In the end, how the regulations are, you need to make a plan of how you’re going to use your engines throughout the season in terms of the modes, mileage and so on to avoid penalties,” he explained.
“We got the engine delivered from Renault, which is good and encouraging to see that they keep bringing steps. But again the plan for us was that it was better not to use it yet, simply to minimise the number of penalties that we would get until the end of the season.”