Mercedes is heading into Sunday’s Italian grand prix with concerns about the engine that powered Lewis Hamilton to pole.
The dominant team entered the Monza weekend with a new specification of ‘power unit’ that is the basis of Mercedes’ development direction for 2016.
Making use of the remaining 7 in-season ‘tokens’, boss Toto Wolff had explained: “Because there are no more tests in the year, we have to test in the race.
“We cannot expect an entirely trouble-free weekend,” he admitted.
Indeed, the new unit fitted to Nico Rosberg’s car had to be replaced with an older unit before qualifying, and the German now lines up just fourth.
Rosberg openly blamed the ‘old’ engine for his three tenth gap to Hamilton, but team chairman Niki Lauda disputed that.
Asked to compare the ‘new’ with the ‘old’, he told Bild newspaper: “You cannot express it in horse power because the engine is connected to the electric power.
“The new engine is perhaps a tenth of a second (better),” Lauda added.
But other paddock sources dispute Lauda’s summary, arguing that Mercedes will have turned Hamilton’s engine down for qualifying due to the Rosberg glitch.
At the same time, Ferrari has taken a step forward with its new engine for Monza, as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel nibbled at Hamilton’s heels just over two tenths behind.
Wolff agrees that Ferrari, it seems, now has the ability to “turn up the power” on a Saturday more than in the past.
Rosberg’s unit, however, had been pulled out due to a problem, and Mercedes is now looking into what exactly went wrong.
“If we find an issue with Nico’s engine which would put Lewis’ race at risk we would consider an engine change and a penalty,” said Wolff, “because our car has great pace.” (GMM)