Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has confirmed their engines are using less power at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix due to reliability concerns.
In the 16 races prior to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, every pole position was powered by a Mercedes engine. Lewis Hamilton added another 11 poles to his mighty record, Valtteri Bottas picked up four P1 starting positions and even Racing Point’s Lance Stroll got in on the act with a shock pole in wet conditions at the Turkish Grand Prix.
But that particular streak came to an end in qualifying at the Yas Marina circuit as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen came out on top in a thrilling Q3 session, pipping Bottas to pole by just 0.025s with Hamilton only 0.086s away from P1 himself.
After the session, Wolff confirmed that Mercedes have had to turn the wick down on their engines slightly due to concerns over the MGU-K element of the engine.
The Mercedes-powered Racing Point of Sergio Perez went up in flames at the Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw a podium position slip from his grasp, and fellow customer team Williams have also experienced MGU-K related problems during Friday practice in Abu Dhabi when smoke started to appear from George Russell’s car.
As a result, Mercedes have been forced to act in order to try and get through the final race of the 2020 season.
“We took a little bit of power, a little bit of performance out of all the Mercedes engines,” Wolff told Motorsport-Total.com.
“We have a gremlin in there. The damage to the MGU-K occurred below the mileage it is normally supposed to last. And we do not yet understand exactly why.”
Stroll also has reliability concerns heading into the final stage, but his is purely mileage-related as his current engine is getting close to the end of its life cycle.
“I mean, we’re surviving on engine miles this weekend,” he told Autosport.
“Checo’s got a new engine. Because of the puncture in Mugello, we hit the engine quite hard.
“That one was toast, and because we lost that one we had to get a new one, so this one’s gone for quite a long time.
“Because I actually I think missed a session for COVID, I think we’ve managed to kind of eke it out until the end of the year. I don’t want to talk too soon.
“We had a couple of races where we weren’t sure if we were gonna change the engine or not and also we’re really trying to drag it out to the end of the season.
“But it’s a long race tomorrow, a lot can happen.
“We’re in the fight with McLaren, and they’re starting in a good position.”
Stroll estimated his turned down engine could cost him a tenth per lap during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which could prove significant in the battle with McLaren and Renault for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship.
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