F1 preview: Abu Dhabi run-through as Verstappen and Hamilton go head-to-head
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Lewis Hamilton will not use a new engine for the final race of the F1 season, his Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has confirmed. The Austrian’s statement will ease Max Verstappen’s fears that his title rival would be driving with more power at their disposal as they go toe-to-toe for the drivers’ world championship.
A new internal combustion engine means a significant power boost, but that comes at the expense of a grid penalty if you’ve already used up your allowance of three per car.
It’s a 10-place handicap for the fourth power unit, while any subsequent penalties are only half of that.
But, as Hamilton proved in Brazil, a five-place penalty is not always enough to offset the huge performance boost gained from a new ICE.
He dropped from fifth to 10th after Sprint Qualifying in Sao Paulo, but had too much power for anyone to cope with on race day and was the first to take the chequered flag.
With the championship on the line in the final race of the season, it had been speculated that Mercedes would fit another power unit to give Hamilton the race pace he needs to see off Red Bull star Verstappen’s challenge.
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But those claims have now been rubbished, with Wolff saying flatly that this would not happen.
“No, the engine works fine, we keep this engine,” he told Sky Italy.
Hamilton’s current engine has been used in two race weekends up to now, in Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
Wolff had previously referred to it as “spicy” – understandable considering the way he roared to victory in both those races.
His use of that word had raised questions over the ICE’s legality, though, causing Mercedes’ director of trackside engineering to step in and downplay the meaning of Wolff’s word.
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“It is not as big a deal as it is perhaps made out to be,” Andrew Shovlin told Sky Sports F1.
“Red Bull were inferring it is a huge difference, I think Toto did the same at one point.
“It is a useful step in the right direction but whether we have it in or not at the last race, it is not going to cover the gap we were seeing to Max on a single lap but it is a step in the right direction.”
The explanation came as he too shot down the possibility of a new engine for the seven-time world champion as he bids to add another crown to that collection.
“It’s not on the plan,” Shovlin added. “If we do that, something has gone wrong.
“It wouldn’t feel like a good idea so that would only be if we suffer a big problem and even that wouldn’t be plan A, if we did lose an engine.”
Hamilton will need to beat Verstappen on the track if he is to secure that eighth world title this season.
The pair are level on points heading into the final race, but the Dutchman has the small advantage of having won more races this season.
It means he would be the winner if they were to remain level on points by the end of the race, though that will only realistically happen if neither of them are able to finish.
Because of the scenario, questions have been raised over whether Verstappen would consider taking out his rival on purpose in order to secure the championship – adding even greater potential for controversy as this thrilling title race comes to its conclusion.
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