Mercedes F1 team manager Toto Wolff has suggested that the way grid penalties are decided for repeated engine changes has to do with a « anti-embarrassment regulations » based on Honda’s struggles upon returning to F1.
Honda struggled enormously with reliability when the Japanese automaker returned with McLaren in 2015 and regularly received 40-50-seat grid penalties when multiple components were changed, with the total going up to over 100 seats.
Valtteri Bottas used his third heat engine in four races at the United States Grand Prix, but was only fined five grid places as it was a repeat offense.
The penalty may seem light (once the first 10-place penalty has been digested) and Toto Wolff agrees with that.
« I think you probably end up in a similar situation to Honda when it comes back to F1, you are in a situation where things go terribly wrong and you have to change engine parts or complete power units and you shouldn’t. not be penalized in each race by a back of the grid. «
« It’s anti-embarrassment regulations but I think it’s okay. The penalty is perhaps too light now that the engine manufacturers have all found great reliability. It’s never perfect, we are proof of it. obviously we have to look at this, how we will do in the future, but it hits us hard this year. «
One of the debates in the paddock since the introduction of the V6 turbo hybrids in 2014 and the large number of grid penalties that followed is whether or not teams should be penalized with the loss of points instead. in the manufacturers’ standings instead of penalizing the driver.
Explaining why the system in its current form is suitable, Wolff adds: « I think the engine penalty system is pretty robust now. »
« What we have to avoid is building power units that somehow only work for a few races. »
« If you change the rules in a certain way and there is no longer a grid penalty for the drivers but only the loss of points for the constructors, that would still mean that if you are fighting for the drivers’ championship, you would just run lots of new engines in the affected car. «
« If we find new good solutions, it will be really worth looking at them because I agree, it is confusing for new fans because, beyond the responsibility of a pilot, to put it in the background of grid or five-seater, and that’s clearly not great. But I don’t have those solutions. «