Power Unit Use – Update before Malaysia


The FIA report of the power unit elements used prior to the Singapore Grand Prix was issued as usual on the Thursday before the race:


With Hamilton and Alonso having taken multiple power unit elements (and the resultant grid penalties) at Spa, this left the 2016 Ferrari powered drivers and Jenson Button as the most likely drivers to need to take a grid penalty before the end of the season.  There is an outside chance that Max Verstappen will take a penalty due to his CE use (the fifth component was first fitted back in Baku).

Singapore isn’t a particularly demanding race for the power unit, so unsurprisingly there were few drivers who fitted new components for this event (preferring instead to fit the new elements at the power hungry tracks of Spa and Monza).  However Max Verstappen did fit his fourth ICE, TC, MGU-H and MGU-K before free practice 1 on the Friday along with a new ES (their third) for:

  • Nico Hülkenberg;
  • Sergio Pérez;
  • Pascal Wehrlein.

The same three also took their third CE while four drivers fitted their fourth CE:

  • Daniil Kvyat;
  • Carlos Sainz;
  • Marcus Ericsson;
  • Felipe Nasr.

For Verstappen he was just catching up with the other Renault users (presumably the manufacturing of new units has been too slow to give everyone the updates at the same time), and despite Renault spending three tokens on an upgrade to the power unit, apparently this was available to all, as it changed some of the external ancillaries that bolted onto the unit and not the six main elements (ICE, TC, MGU-H, MGU-K, ES and CE) themselves.

With Sebastian Vettel’s suspension failure seeing him qualify in 22nd and last place, Ferrari too the sensible decision to fit a new ICE, TC and MGU-H for the race.  He was going to have to take a grid penalty at one race this year anyway, so this would minimise the impact, as he was already starting from dead last.

Looking forward to Malaysia, Honda are reported to be bringing their final power unit upgrade to this race.  If they do it will mean grid penalties for both their drivers.  The total token spend to date for the four power unit manufacturers is:

  • Ferrari 32 (0 remaining)
  • Honda 29 (3 remaining)
  • Mercedes 26 (6 remaining)
  • Renault 14 (18 remaining)

While Renault have plenty of tokens left, they are not expected to introduce any further updates according to what has been reported in the press.  This I find odd, as all their drivers have one complete power unit left to use this season (with the exception of Max Verstappen who doesn’t have a spare CE), so they could take an update and benefit from it without grid penalties.  It just indicates that perhaps Renault don’t know what to do to make the power unit better.

Ferrari have no tokens remaining and so cannot make any further inroads towards the dominant Mercedes, and Honda are supposed to be bringing their final upgrade this weekend.  Mercedes meanwhile still have six tokens available.  If they spend them, Nico Rosberg would be able to benefit without penalty (probably from Japan or USA), but it would mean that Lewis Hamilton would need to take another penalty if he were to get the upgraded power unit.

With Max Verstappen not performing as well has his team-mate last time out in Singapore, and  Sebastian Vettel passing him on the track, Ferrari didn’t suffer as much as they could have for Vettels grid penalties.  However Kimi Räikkönen will also need to take a grid penalty at some point before the end of the year, and this will help Red Bull in their battle for second place.

The customer Ferrari teams using this year’s power unit (Sauber and Haas) are also all likely to get grid penalties at some point before the end of the season.  While Sauber cannot fall any further, it won’t help them to score any points to try and move into the top ten.   Haas are also secure in eighth place, unlikely to catch Toro Rosso and safe from Renault.  Both Williams and Force India seem to be saving a pair of power units per driver for the final few races in their battle for fourth place.  Perhaps they are hoping for the upgraded Mercedes power unit for both the fourth and fifth units to be used by their drivers.   With only six races to go, it would make sense for these teams to fit their fourth power unit this weekend, and use each PU for three races, but that would be too soon for the works Mercedes drivers to fit an upgraded PU to last the rest of the season.

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“While Renault have plenty of tokens left, they are not expected to introduce any further updates according to what has been reported in the press. This I find odd … It just indicates that perhaps Renault don’t know what to do to make the power unit better.” That’s one possible explanation. The other is that they might be developing a major design change, similar to what Honda is reported to be doing, which cannot be introduced this year as there aren’t enough tokens left – but next year with no token restrictions that won’t be a problem. I tend to… Read more »