Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, hailed the team’s calculated gamble to fit a new engine in Lewis Hamilton’s car after the Briton’s stunning victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mercedes installed a fifth internal combustion engine (ICE) ahead of qualifying on Friday, incurring a five-place grid penalty, due to concerns over the extended use of an engine causing a loss of performance.
The risk paid dividends as Hamilton produced a mesmerising performance over the weekend, coming from tenth on the grid on Sunday to take victory from Max Verstappen and close the gap at the top of the drivers’ standings to just 14 points.
“There wasn’t a technical reason to change, as in we didn’t think that we were at risk of failing and we don’t think that we’re at risk of failing,” Shovlin said. “Although, you know, these power units are running awfully hard and you can never, never take reliability for granted.
“But there is an attraction to taking a penalty at a sprint race, because if you can win on the Saturday, that’s more points that you can score and you can lessen a deficit. This is also a track that we hoped would be one that we could overtake at and that we could recover positions. And we proved that in the last two days.”
Hamilton’s pace at Interlagos has breathed new life into his chances of securing a record-breaking eighth world championship and Shovlin believes the benefit of fitting the additional ICE unit will continue to be influential over the course of the final three races of the season.
“You want to get these things in the pool because by the time you get to Abu Dhabi you’re not going to get the advantage of it for more than a single race,” he said.
“So there’s a number of reasons – and it’s never black and white because you don’t know how the weekend is going to going to pan out. But on reflection, I think we picked a good circuit to do it.”
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