Jenson Button is baffled by Mercedes’ engine woes, the Brackley squad putting Valtteri Bottas onto his sixth ICE of this season in Austin.
Having made it through the first half of this year’s championship without any major engine dramas, Mercedes have suffered since the summer break.
At a time when Red Bull feel their title rivals have found something “strange” that has given them a power boost, Mercedes have also stumbled across reliability issues.
So much so that the team has been forced to give Bottas his sixth ICE of this season in Austin while there is talk of Lewis Hamilton having to take a fifth.
And of course every new ICE from number four onwards comes with an engine penalty, a penalty that could have an impact on this year’s title race.
Former F1 driver turned pundit Button told Sky Sports: “They’ve proved that a brand new engine hasn’t necessarily meant a reliable engine.
“Valtteri is on his sixth combustion engine right now. You’re supposed to only use three in a season and we still have quite a few races to go, so [it’s] not a good situation for them.”
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He added: “They obviously have the outright pace, but reliability… [it’s] the first time they’ve really had to struggle with reliability issues and try and solve them, since the hybrid era started.”
“I think you see that we are suffering with reliability this year,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff on the issue of engines.
“We are going on to the sixth engine, I believe it is for Valtteri, and it’s not something we choose to do.
“On the contrary, we are trying to really get on top of the problems and we haven’t understood [them] fully.
“I think we are a step closer now, so it’s not always that we are literally easy with having the engines.
“We are hanging on for dear life in supplying all customers and that is not trivial.”
“[It’s] not an easy position, but they have the best people to put this right, [so] it’s just a matter of time.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner feels Mercedes are “weighing up that risk versus reward” but added that it is “very unusual for Mercedes” to suffer reliability issues.
“They’ve obviously been the benchmark of reliability the last six or seven years,” he continued.
“So it’s unusual that they are in this situation.”
He added: Reliability can be decisive. You’ve got to be at the end of the race.”
Bottas’ sixth ICE of the season means he will have a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff concedes Mercedes’ reliability troubles are so severe that “we are hanging on for dear life in supplying all customers and that is not trivial.”