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Engine penalties at the Belgian GP: Mercedes, Renault and Honda upgrade

Motor penalties in Belgium
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E s is a good time for an engine update. At Spa-Francorchamps, performance counts. Especially in the first and last section. According to Mercedes, the full throttle share is 81 percent. Every extra horse is welcome.

But the manufacturers and teams also have to weigh up. When does an engine exchange make sense? When is a starting place penalty acceptable? Each driver may only use three units of combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H for the 21 races. Behind this is the energy recovery in the exhaust tract.

According to the regulations, only two units of the second MGU-K electric machine, the battery and the control unit are allowed. Anyone who exceeds the quotas will be penalized on the grid. But in Belgium you can overtake well as is well known. Before La Source. At the end of the Kemmel straight. Or in the bus stop chicane, for example. Therefore, punishment is less painful than on winding roads.

Mercedes relies on a new engine expansion stage in Belgium.

A little more power from Mercedes

After the summer break, Mercedes ignites the second expansion stage of the year of its V6 turbo. The first was introduced on the Canadian Power Line. It will be the third engine each for Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. So they don't have to fear any punishment.

The engineers speak of more performance and improved reliability. But Mercedes was great anyway. Only at the GP Canada there was a defect in Lance Stroll's customer car. The jump in performance should be moderate. From the team it is said. “Don't expect a revolution.”

The upgrade will not be enough to qualify for theMaximum performance to draw level with class leader Ferrari. Hamilton throttles expectations. “This expansion stage is more about efficiency and reliability. It shouldn't even take us a tenth of a second on paper, ”reveals the defending champion and World Cup leader. The Mercedes engineers should also have paid attention to the fact that the V6 turbo suffers less from extreme heat.

Ferrari sticks to engine plan

Hamilton fears two difficult race weekends get. “There are long straights in Belgium and Monza. Ferrari has been pulling away from us all season. Red Bull is meanwhile also very fast straight ahead. And they have an efficient aerodynamics package with which they are also good in corners. ”That does not mean, however, that Hamilton is dissatisfied with his Mercedes V6 and the development. “I drove the first engine in Budapest. And it felt amazing. We were the market leader in engines for years. It's never easy to keep such a head start. In 2019 things turned and the road is more rocky for us. But it was foreseeable that this could happen at some point. ”

Ferrari is stubbornly following its plan. The second engine upgrade to Spain will be ready for the home game in Monza. With the current engine you should be well prepared in Belgium. “We're not worried about the Mercedes engine,” says Sebastian Vettel. “We'll see how good your new engine is in the qualification.”

During the summer break, the Mercedes engine factory worked hard. In contrast to the chassis faction in Brackley. It had to close for two weeks. This is what the regulations want. Mercedes also built new engines for Racing Point and Williams customers in good time. Usually several mechanics need two weeks for this.

Alexander Albon receives the Honda-Spec-4 as a welcome at Red Bull Engine.

Verstappen old, Albon new

Williams can install the new engines without hesitation. Both George Russell and Robert Kubica have not yet exhausted their season contingent. At Racing Point it's different. A fourth aggregatewould ban Lance Stroll to the back of the starting grid.

Alexander Albon already knows his fate. Red Bull's newcomer is welcomed by Honda's Spec4 engine. It is the third stage of the season after Azerbaijan and France. Albon slips to the end of the field. The Thai will focus his training on the race. He can't win anything in qualifying. “We will concentrate on the race set-up during the setup.”

Honda's new engine should increase in the double-digit range. So more than the new V6 turbos from Mercedes and Renault. Together with a new gasoline that is to come to the GP Russia, it should be around 25 more horsepower that the Honda V6 saddles. At Max Verstappen, Red Bull will wait until Monza. You don't want to block your chances of winning in Belgium with a penalty. Red Bull is hoping for the Verstappen factor in Spa.

Guinea pig for Verstappen

Daniil Kvyat caught it with the sister team. Engine number five costs the Russians five starting positions. New teammate Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, drives with Honda's Spec-3 engine. 'The decision was made before I was demoted to Toro Rosso,' says the Frenchman.

Albon and Kvyat are, so to speak, the guinea pigs. This allows Honda to compare old and new on the same track. And you can uncover any problems with the new power unit before you screw star driver Verstappen into the car. For Monza, the engine mapping can be improved if the worst comes to the worst.

Renault is the third manufacturer with an upgrade. It is the third stage of the season in the 13th race. The first in Spain had increased reliability after connecting rod damage. Turned the power screw with the second for the home game in France. It came out about ten horsepower. “It won't be that much with the new engine,” explains Renault team boss Cyril. Abiteboul. 'But it is noticeable progress.'

Renault is still thinking

Renault is still working on its master plan. Presumably Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo will only drive the new engine in practice and then switch back. It would cost them five places each. The ulterior motive: The team considers Spa to be the more overtaking-friendly track than Monza.

Other factors play a role. At 7.004 kilometers, Spa is the longest route on the calendar. It is therefore not easy for the teams to provide enough juice from the battery for the electric motors over the entire lap. “The performance increases with the new engine. But to a certain extent it is at the expense of energy recovery. We have to look at that very carefully during training and check it out, ”says Abiteboul. And then Renault has to finalize the plan of how to get through the remaining nine races without further penalties. This is another reason why you could use the new engines for qualifying and racessave.

There is a question mark behind McLaren. Renault's customer team has not yet decided whether to use the fresh engine next weekend. If you decide to do so, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz will be punished.


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