Lewis Hamilton’s reliability woes with his Mercedes in the 2016 Formula 1 season have been described as “an aberration” by FIA technical director Charlie Whiting.
Hamilton has started this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix with a fourth MGU-H and turbo, meaning he is almost certain to take penalties later this year as only five are allowed per season.
Next year, engine component use will be further limited. For 2017 only four power units can be used before penalties are applied, while for ’18 onward there is a limit of three on the internal combustion engine, turbo and MGU-H, and only two energy stores, control electronics and MGU-Ks.
Whiting was asked whether he and the engine manufacturers were confident such targets were feasible in two years’ time given, as an example, Hamilton’s difficulties at a time when reliability should have stabilized with the power unit rules in their third season.
“I’m confident because the power unit manufacturers are confident,” replied Whiting. “They’ve agreed to these figures, and they wouldn’t have agreed if they were extremely concerned about it. I think what we’ve seen this year is an aberration. In the previous two years we haven’t seen anything like this from Mercedes, which is quite a surprise really.”
It was further suggested to Whiting such limitations were arguably extreme and the manufacturers were being pushed too hard, particularly in light of the unpopularity of previously extreme grid penalties. But Whiting countered: “I don’t think so.
“We’ve already got the situation where if they go over the allocated maximum they cannot go any further back than the back of the grid. We had all those silly penalties before where a driver might have had 50 places, plus a drive-through, a stop-go, which we’ve stopped.
“So you can’t go any worse than the back of the grid, and that will only happen once when the new parts are introduced. Judging by the conversations I’ve heard, they [the manufacturers] all think it’s completely doable, so there really shouldn’t be any trouble.”