Lewis Hamilton is in the closest Formula 1 title race in years, currently just two points ahead of rival Max Verstappen. It’s that close thanks in part to an incredible recovery drive from Verstappen in Russia, finishing second after starting last after taking his own penalty for changing his power unit. Hamilton will hope to do something similar this weekend in Turkey.
Verstappen started last because of a penalty for changing his power unit; on Friday, it was announced that Hamilton will get a similar penalty, except his will only be 10 places in the grid because Mercedes isn’t changing the whole power unit, just the internal combustion engine.
Mercedes (and Red Bull) opted for different power units mostly over reliability concerns, as a DNF in such a close title race could spell disaster. Hamilton sounds unruffled about it all.
“I have a lot of work to do on Sunday so whatever the case I am going to try and focus on how I can get the best out of it,” he said. “I need to be on pole to limit the loss and then of course I need to understand the car to do my best in terms of the long run.”
Mercedes engineers, meanwhile, are sounding very Mercedes.
The Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin confirmed in Turkey that it was reliability and a marginal performance improvement from the engine they were looking for.
“We’re simulating all the races to the end of the year,” he said. “There’s a balance of the risk of a reliability issue, obviously the thing you definitely don’t want to do is fail during a race and then have to take a penalty anyway, and then there’s the performance element because the power units do lose a bit of a horsepower over their life. It’s better to take 10 places than start at the back.”
Hamilton was quickest in both practices on Friday, with Verstappen and Charles Leclerc right on his heels; I’ll give you one guess as to who finished last in both. Anyway, this should be the part of the season that could be the most compelling, as neither Red Bull nor Mercedes are sure who which of the remaining races favor. Let’s get this done, Max.