As we come towards the end of the season it is definitely time to expect some tactical switching of Power Unit components. The current usage is shown in the FIA report issued today:
Not much new was fitted in Sochi last time out, no-one took a new Internal Combustion Engine or Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic, Daniil Kvyat was the only driver to fit a new Turbo Charger, Kamui Kobayashi was the only driver to fit a new Motor Generator Unit – Heat. Six drivers took a new Energy Store (Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hülkenberg, Sergio Pérez, Jean-Éric Vergne and Max Chilton) and three drivers used a new Control Electronics (Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez).
It may be prudent to remind ourselves of the relevant clause in the 2014 Sporting Regulations:
28.4 a) Unless he drives for more than one team (see 28.4(d) below), each driver may use no more than five power units during a Championship season.
- b) For the purposes of this Article 28.4 the power unit will be deemed to comprise six separate elements, the engine (ICE), the motor generator unit-kinetic (MGU-K), the motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H), the energy store (ES), turbocharger (TC) and control electronics (CE). Each driver will therefore be permitted to use five of each of the above six components during a Championship season and any combination of them may be fitted to a car at any one time.
- c) Should a driver use more than five of any one of the elements a grid place penalty will be imposed upon him at the first Event during which each additional element is used. Penalties will be applied according to the following table and will be cumulative :
|Replacement of a complete power unit||The driver concerned must start the race from the pit lane.|
|The first time a 6th of any of the elements is used||Ten grid place penalty|
|The first time a 6th of any of the remaining elements is used||Five grid place penalty|
|The first time a 7th of any of the elements is used||Ten grid place penalty|
|The first time a 7th of any of the remaining elements is used, and so on||Five grid place penalty|
A power unit or any of the six components will be deemed to have been used once the car’s timing transponder has shown that it has left the pit lane. If a grid place penalty is imposed, and the driver’s grid position is such that the full penalty cannot be applied, the remainder of the penalty will be applied at the driver’s next Event. However, no such remaining penalties will be carried forward for more than one Event.
- d) If a driver is replaced at any time during the Championship season his replacement will be deemed to be the original driver for the purposes of assessing power unit usage.
- e) After consultation with the relevant power unit supplier the FIA will attach seals to each of the relevant components within the power unit prior to them being used for the first time at an Event in order to ensure that no significant moving parts can be rebuilt or replaced. Within two hours of the end of the post race parc fermé exhaust blanking plates (with one 10mm diameter inspection hole per cylinder) and further seals will be applied to all used power unit components in order to ensure that they cannot be run or dismantled between Events. Upon request to the FIA these additional seals will be removed after the start of initial scrutineering at the next Event at which the power units are required. All such power units must remain within the team’s designated garage area when not fitted to a car and may not be started at any time during an Event other than when fitted to a car eligible to participate in the Event.
- f) If any of the FIA seals are damaged or removed from the relevant components within the power unit after they have been used for the first time those parts may not be used again unless they were removed under FIA supervision.
- g) If a power unit or any of the six components within it are changed in accordance with Article 34.2 the power unit components which were replaced may not be used again during any future qualifying session or race with the exception of the last Event of the Championship.
With only 18 cars on the grid, any driver needing to change one or more PU component will need to do it in Austin to ensure that the grid penalty imposed does not roll over to the double points final at Abu Dhabi. The only exception to this would be if a driver could take a complete sixth Power Unit as he would then need to start from the pit-lane (and this could be done at Interlagos without worrying about carrying the penalty across to the final race). The only drivers with the option currently of taking a complete sixth PU are Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen. All the others have one or more components on 3, 4 or 6 used to date.
The two components that I don’t think will cause anyone a problem are the CE and ES:
These have been the most reliable of all the components within the PU and the only reason for anyone to need a sixth item is to lessen the effect of the cumulative grid ppenalty by starting from the pit-lane.
The MGU’s haven’t been too much of an issue, but Pastor Maldonado has been on 5 of both MGU-K and MGU-H for quite some time and they may cause him an issue before the end of the season. Both Toro Rosso drivers have also been of 5 MGU-K for a significant period, and may need to change:
While no-one has yet used a sixth TC, both Lotus drivers got through their first four far quicker than anyone else, and they may start to cause them issues before the end of the year:
The ICE is the one component where penalties have already been taken, and it has been discussed in the press that Vettel will need to take a sixth one before the end of the season, and as a result may take a complete PU and sit out qualifying in Austin. However he may not be the only one who needs to make a tactical switch to ensure a fresh ICE for the final double points round:
Both Ferraris have previously arranged to use five of every component (even the more reliable CE and ES) and this gives them the option of a pit-lane start in Austin or Interlagos if they deem it necessary. Whether Ricciardo, Grosjean, Sutil or Gutiérrez fit the new components they need for FP1 to give themselves this option could be interesting. I don’t see it being needed for an Mercedes powered team, but they may also consider the option.
Next season only four Power Units are allowed to last for the proposed twenty races, so the reliability of these components will need to improve with the revisions made over the winter. We have already seen the reliability improve for all manufacturers dramatically from the pre-season testing, so this could be one area where the current three suppliers have an advantage over Honda next year.