As is usual, on the Thursday prior to the race, the FIA issued the report into the number of Power Unit Elements used by each driver to this point in the season:
Four drivers ended up with grid penalties last time out in Belgium, all took a complete new Power Unit (PU), and as a result ended up at the back of the grid. Their positions were decided by the order in which the teams notified the FIA. Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hülkenberg fitted their new PUs before Free Practice 1, and so ended up on the ninth row of the grid, while Carlos Sainz and Stoffel Vandoorne only fitted theirs after qualifying (the result of a poor qualifying session), and so ended up on the tenth row to start the race.
With both Spa and Monza being power sensitive circuits, teams chose to fit new updated elements prior to the Belgian race. Both Ferrari and Mercedes had their third iteration of the 2018 PU available to those wanting to fit new elements. Renault meanwhile had their C specification available, but warned that the reliability wasn’t yet at the level of the earlier specification. Despite the increase in power, teams have so far chosen to stick with the earlier specification. Honda have been developing their PU all year, but no new elements were fitted for Spa.
All the Ferrari drivers have used all their available allowance of PU elements (and no more) with the exception of Kimi Räikkönen. He still has the opportunity to fit a fresh Motor Generator Unit – Heat (MGU-H). Normally this component is changed along with the Turbocharger (TC), but Räikkönen fitted a TC out of sequence following a failure earlier in the year.
Every Mercedes driver took either a new PU complete, or all the remaining elements of their season’s allowance. Bottas is the exception having fitted his final PU following the failure in Austria, he took a complete new PU in Spa so that he could benefit from the improvements available in the latest specification.
The Renault PU use is far less consistent than either of the Ferrari or Mercedes drivers. Every single Renault powered driver has had a grid penalty of some sort so far this year. They are still to catch the top two in both power and reliability. While all six drivers have suffered grid penalties for using an extra Moto Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K), four have used extra Energy Stores (ES) and Control Electronics (CE) while three have exceeded the permitted number of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), TC and MGU-H. Despite this, Max Verstappen is the only other driver to have some spare PU Elements left to use (an ICE and a MGU-H). Daniel Ricciardo is reported to be likely to fit a new PU this time out (AUTOSPORT), and it looks likely that Red Bull will be the only Renault powered team to try the C specification PU (AUTOSPORT).
The situation for Honda hasn’t changed since last week. Both drivers are well over their allowance, but could end up fitting new elements either for reliability or performance upgrade reasons.
Worth noting at this point is what happens if drivers change teams. The PU allocation is tied to the car and not the driver. So a driver moving to a different team will take on the PU allocation of the driver he replaces. This also explains why Racing Point Force India didn’t have their PU allocation reset, despite being a new team. The chassis remain as Force India’s and so the cars remain the same even if the team name has changed. Force India remains in the name of the team because the team has to own the Intellectual Property Rights to the chassis in order to qualify as a constructor, next year expect both the chassis and the team name to change.
With only two drivers able to take new PU elements penalty free, expect more grid penalties from now on, but these are most likely to be among the Renault and Honda powered cars. Mercedes powered machines should now get to the end of the year penalty free, while Ferrari may have a few elements that cause their drivers some issues. However, every driver has used their final PU before the ideal time (with 21 races in the season, each of the three ICE, TC and MGU-H needs to last for seven race weekends). So each will need to fit an earlier PU for some of the less power dependant circuits (two for the Mercedes powered drivers and at least three for those powered by Ferrari). The FIA report never indicates which particular unit is used, just the total number that have been used to date.