Lewis Hamilton is keeping an open mind and a modest target of breaking into the top ten as he prepares to start the Belgian grand prix from the back.
The world championship leader has incurred farcical penalties that count in the dozens of grid positions for a spate of power unit component changes at Spa.
Mercedes chose Spa as the scene of the inevitable penalty fest, believing the long blasts in the Belgian Ardennes would mean Hamilton can overtake.
But Hamilton said: “If you want to pass, you have to be close in the corner beforehand and that’s very difficult. One lap following another and you’re tyres are gone.”
Given the tyre situation that has unfolded in Belgium, team boss Toto Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport: “In hindsight, Monza might have been a better place to take the engine penalties.”
But Hamilton is at least happy that the spectre of engine changes no longer hangs over his head for the remaining races of 2016, with Mercedes having stockpiled no fewer than 3 fresh power units at Spa.
“Who knows if I’ll need them all,” said the Briton, “but I’m happy that I can maybe drive a bit more aggressively now and don’t have to worry about it.”
The disadvantage for Hamilton is that Mercedes may make further updates to the power unit specification that the reigning world champion will not get.
“We have to accept this disadvantage,” said Wolff, “as it is outweighed by the advantage he now has in having enough engines for the last nine races.”
Hamilton, though, joins much of the rest of the F1 paddock in questioning whether the sport has its system of engine penalties right.
“No one knows what a MGU-H is,” he said. “And no one’s interested either.”
In theory, Hamilton could have used his ‘penalty weekend’ at Spa to the max and deliberately incurred another reprimand, removing that sword of Damocles from above his head as well.
But he said: “That would have meant doing something deliberately illegal or dangerous, and I don’t want to do that. And I could have shot myself in the foot by getting the penalty in the next race as well.”