Red Bull’s suspicions over Mercedes engine weakness

Henry Valantine
Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull of Max Verstappen at the Russian Grand Prix. Sochi September 2021

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the Russian Grand Prix. Sochi September 2021

Red Bull reportedly believe they know where weak spots in Mercedes’ power units may be, which would cause power losses as mileage increases. 

After Max Verstappen took a fresh engine in Russia that caused an engine penalty, along with Valtteri Bottas, there is increased focus on when or whether World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will follow suit.

The Honda and Mercedes power units have appeared to be relatively evenly matched this season, but while Red Bull’s appeal against a “trick” in the Mercedes engine was discarded by the FIA, they have supposedly identified where the Silver Arrows may lose out moving forward.

‘There is intense speculation in the paddock as to where the weak point in the Mercedes engines lies,’ a report by Auto Motor und Sport claims.

‘Red Bull claims to have heard something about the crankshaft and valve seats, and that Mercedes’ older engines lose a disproportionate amount of power with increasing mileage. This is not confirmed by Mercedes.’

“It’s little things, stupidly always different. There is no clear pattern,” said Toto Wolff in response to Mercedes’ engine issues, batting away any speculation aimed his team’s way.

Max Verstappen [Red Bull] and Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] in the pit lane at the Italian GP. September 2021.

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Helmut Marko believes the weaknesses within their rivals’ set-up have shown up as a result of the fact the title race is so tight in 2021, with their previous dominance allowing them to run the power unit within its full capabilities.

“Mercedes used to have an easy game,” said the Red Bull motorsport advisor. “They used the throttle for the first few laps of the race and then ran the engines in low gear.

“That’s no longer possible. Now they have to drive more often and longer in a higher mode. And here come the problems.”


Mercedes team principal Wolff said previously that any swap of power unit for Hamilton would happen “spontaneously”, so as to not give Red Bull an unnecessary advantage, but he did confirm that the change is under consideration in Turkey this weekend – while others within the team believe it’ll come at a later date.

“It probably won’t happen in Turkey, unless Lewis has a problem there,” the engineers said, quoted by AMuS. “There we expect a close race against Red Bull. But after that it has to be put over.

“You try to schedule it so it’s on a track where you’re either particularly strong or weak, or when rain comes. Mexico will be a Red Bull track because of the altitude. Interlagos maybe as well.”


Engine penalty for Lewis Hamilton in Turkey?

It's very likely that Lewis Hamilton will have to take an engine penalty before the end of the season. Is he best off getting it out of the way at the Turkish Grand Prix?