Power Unit Use – update for Brazil

The FIA report into the power units elements used during the season so far is as follows:

Brazil PU use

While Sebastian Vettel took a complete sixth Power Unit (and as a result started from the pit-lane), Daniil Kvyat took a seventh ICE and had a ten place grid penalty imposed. As he qualified 14th out of the 18 drivers, he could only take three places of the ten place penalty (Vettel starting from the pit-lane). As a result Kvyat has a seven place penalty to carry over to this race.

In addition to Vettel and Kvyat, both Force India drivers and Esteban Gutiérrez took their fifth ICE last weekend. All drivers have used at least five ICE now. Similarly for the TC, both Force India drivers and Daniel Ricciardo took their fifth TC, so all drivers have used all of their allowed turbochargers (and Vettel has used a sixth).

It is an identical story for the MGU-H (Force India and Red Bull taking an extra unit for their drivers) to leave everyone on five units apart from Vettel on six. While for the MGU-K Ricciardo was already on five units, so it was only Vetttel and the Force India pair with new items.

There is some variation in ES use (both Red Bull drivers and Adrian Sutil took new units in Austin), and CE with only Vettel taking a new unit.

Should drivers wish to avoid carrying over a penalty to the double points final race in Abu Dhabi, they will either have to qualify above eighth position on Saturday (a gamble with rain forecast), or fit a complete (sixth) new PU and start from the pit-lane. To have the latter option, they must have used five of every component already. So far only Ricciardo, Alonso, Räikkönen and Sutil are in that position. However Ferrari appeared to take the decision last weekend to give Alonso an old down on power unit last weekend to save the better performing lower mileage unit for Abu Dhabi. That would appear to rule him out from taking a pit-lane start. For the other three it may still be a possibility.

Any other driver who wants to use the option will have to use the additional fifth ES and/or CE during free practice before fitting sixth items for qualifying and the race. Note this option isn’t really practical for those who have already taken penalties for an additional ICE (Maldonado, Vergne and Kvyat).

Looking at the distances each car has covered so far this season during racee weekends (note this includes the distances travelled by other drivers in the car during various Free Practice 1 sessions), we can see that unsurprisingly it is the inexperienced drivers who have completed the most laps:


Kevin Magnussen leads the way with over 13,000 km with Daniil Kvyat close behind on 12,700 km. Surprisingly Nico Rosberg has also felt the need to complete the same distance. While this has not been an issued for the Mercedes powered drivers, the laps that the Toro Rosso drivers have completed will have contributed to their need for additional ICE. Vettel on the other hand has had poor reliability and limited running compared to his team mate, and this shows up in the distance completed, as it does for Lewis Hamilton. Pastor Maldonado’s comparatively short distance run are a result of not only poor reliability but also the number of incidents/accidents he has had this year.

The Marussia and Caterham distances are shorter than others partly because they missed the race in Austin, but also if you look at the average distance per race weekend (which take into account the number of races where they were present) they have had to be economical with the mileage all through the season.

With PU needing to last for five race weekends next season (four PU for the season and 20 races in the calendar), each component will need to last between 2500 and 3000 km. The Mercedes looks like it can already complete this distance (Magnussen’s five units have already averaged over 2600 km per unit and if he completes the season without needing a sixth unit this will only increase). Ferrari may get close (the works units have averaged 2340 km per unit so far, but the ones in the Sauber’s are below 2200km per unit). Renault though could be in trouble, it has the biggest range of results, while Ricciardo has managed to get over 2400 km from each of his units, Vettel and Kvyat have only just managed over 1800 km, and Maldonado is way down below 1700 km per unit.

The average distance for each ICE is shown below:

ICE Average

While Honda may be able to compete on power output, testing restrictions mean they have no opportunity to test the reliability of their Power Units under realistic conditions. This is an area where they may suffer next year.

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