“We had engines that basically failed, and now it’s about containing the problem, because in that phase, redesigning parts is not something you would tackle.
“Balancing performance and reliability has always been the key metric in the past couple of years, and it will be also going forward.”
“We have seen over the course of the season that we have some little gremlins that we weren’t completely sure where they came from and how much performance they could potentially cost. We would rather have a new engine in the pool that can possibly go longer.”
This was a reference to the fourth Hamilton engine, rather than a conformation there will be a fifth.
“I think we understand much better now where the root cause lies and it’s something that can happen from time to time if you just have a material issue, a batch problem, and these are the things you need to consider.”
Meanwhile the word from Honda is that it sees no reason why Max Verstappen cannot get through on his remaining pool of three (the fourth, introduced in Sochi, was only a replacement for the one damaged in the Silverstone crash).
So while Red Bull worries about Mercedes’ recent pace, Mercedes is worried about further grid penalties. If a fifth ICE is used, the saving grace is that the other component parts of the PU package all seem to be rock solid so shouldn’t need to be replaced. Furthermore, the penalty for a fifth ICE would only be five places and not the 10 imposed for the fourth.
So if Mercedes can introduce a new Hamilton ICE and take only a five place drop, it could be done at, say, Mexico, where Mercedes does not expect to be competitive because of the limitations its turbo always suffers in the high altitude. Let’s say he qualifies a nominal third there, translating to eighth after a grid penalty. A podium would surely be feasible from there in such a situation, minimising any points loss to his rival.
There are of course an infinite number of ways this could yet play out, but the performance/reliability balance between Mercedes and Red Bull is very much the frame of reference going into the last six events.