Mercedes' engine customers are yet to benefit from the very latest specification of the dominant German marque's power unit. Ahead of the Italian grand prix, Mercedes handed in its remaining 7 in-season development tokens and unveiled what the Italian press is calling the 'super motor'. Indeed, the gap to Ferrari and the rest of the field after Friday practice was significant, as Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko quipped: "And it's not even Saturday, when they turn it up."
As far as Mercedes is concerned, it is already now planning ahead for 2016 with an experimental engine. "We want to see what direction we are going for next year," boss Toto Wolff confirmed to Speed Week. "And because there are no more tests in the year, we have to test in the race. Monza is therefore a part of our development programme."
One concern, he said, is that the upgraded engine may not yet be completely bullet-proof. "We cannot expect an entirely trouble-free weekend," said Wolff. "Reliability could be an issue. But at some point we have to start with the tests." That may be a good argument for why customers Force India, Lotus and Williams are yet to be offered the latest specification. "Our customers will get the new development as soon as possible," Wolff is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.
So while it is all plain-sailing on the engine front for Mercedes, the same cannot be said for rivals Renault and Honda. Indeed, both manufacturers are now making use of the new loophole created when the FIA put a limit on how much drivers can be penalised per weekend for engine changes. McLaren-Honda began the 'doubling up' at Spa, and now Red Bull and Toro Rosso are reportedly following suit.
Explaining the rationale of making multiple engine changes with a maximum of a back-of-the-grid demotion, McLaren's Eric Boullier told the official F1 website: "At tracks like Spa or Monza we have to use these 'jokers', to 'protect' the few races where we know we can be competitive."
According to some, however, the new loophole is simply making a "farce" of qualifying, as multiple drivers tumble to the back of the grid. "It is likely to be a long time after qualifying until it is clear who actually starts from where on the grid. It is getting silly now," said Helmut Uhl, the correspondent for Bild newspaper. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing
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