Marko Decodes the Reason for Mercedes’ F1 Engine Woes Amidst Hamilton Dilemma

Published 10/06/2021, 9:10 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 25, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during qualifying REUTERS/Anton Vaganov


We head into the closing rounds of the title battle, as only six rounds will remain after the Turkish GP. This means that Red Bull and Mercedes would want a smooth ride to the end in order to claim the sought-after trophy. However, Mercedes may have a few hurdles to cross. The power unit limitations are playing a crucial role in this run to the end.

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Mercedes faces the dilemma of giving Hamilton his fourth PU of this season; this would cause him to start from the back of the grid. The team faces the added pressure of Max Verstappen having already claimed his extra PU, with almost zero setbacks in his result. Verstappen came second in Sochi, the rain and excellent strategy coming to his advantage.

Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 25, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the pits during qualifying Pool via REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov

Helmut Marko credits Mercedes’ greatness for its setbacks. “Mercedes used to have an easy time of it. They accelerated the first couple of laps in the race and then ran the engines in overdrive. That is no longer possible. Now you have to drive more often and longer in a higher mode. And then the problems come.”

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A lot of drivers have already taken the penalty and are on their fourth engine. In fact, Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas is on his fifth engine. As Mercedes waits for the right moment to give Hamilton the new PU, will it weigh heavy later in the season?

Understanding Mercedes’ engine problem

Mercedes has a problem with the longevity of its engine. The team noticed a pattern in Hamilton’s older engines- falling oil pressure was a common problem towards the end of a unit’s lifetime. While this isn’t an unusual problem, the team wouldn’t want a weakness like this towards the end of the season.

So, Hamilton can’t go to the final races in an old engine, but the problem lies in the fact that the upcoming circuits like Mexico and Interlagos favor Red Bull. At the same time, refraining from an engine swap could damage the team. The dilemma lies in the timing of this swap.

Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 26, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton crosses the line to win the race REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Ideally, Sochi would have served the perfect opportunity. Verstappen was starting from the back of the grid and Hamilton had only qualified in fourth. However, the team preferred the much-needed win; not having anticipated Verstappen finishing second, thus having saved points.

The exact weak link remains undisclosed, leaving other teams guessing Mercedes’ Achilles’ heel. Toto Wolff only revealed little. “There are small things, unfortunately always different. There is no clear pattern recognizable.”

Plausible scenarios for the team

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The Brackley outfit faces another predicament- changing the engine too early would again result in a relatively worn chassis towards the end of the season. Thus, the problem would only drag on again. So, the team has to calculate and save its mileage for the crucial last races.

Formula One F1 – Italian Grand Prix – Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza, Italy – September 11, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during the sprint qualifying REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

As a result, Brazil would be the final and most practical option for the team. The last three races would prove too risky for Hamilton to start from P20. Engineers discussed the possibility of a swap in Turkey this weekend. “It probably won’t happen in Turkey unless Lewis has a problem there. We expect a close race against Red Bull. But then it has to be done. You’re trying to put it on a track that takes place where you are either particularly strong or weak. Or when it rains.”

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Mercedes has a lot to think about regarding Hamilton’s PU. Max Verstappen has found incredible pace in his Red Bull and is likely to continue on this trajectory. Mercedes has an important decision to make; one that could make or break their chances at either championship title.

Watch this story: Shortest F1 Drivers Ever Featuring Yuki Tsunoda & Lando Norris

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Shreya Sanjeev

453 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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