Valtteri Bottas will take a five-place grid penalty for this weekend’s United States GP after Mercedes fitted a sixth new engine in his car – twice as many as is permitted over the season.
Bottas has been hit with a flurry of penalties in recent weeks with fresh Power Units at the Italian and Russian GPs, and he has another for the Austin weekend with a, somewhat unexpected, new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).
Mercedes say the latest switch is being done because it provides the “best balance of performance and reliability to the end of the season”.
“We’ve unfortunately had since mid year some reliability issues that keep coming back,” added team boss Toto Wolff. “I think we understand now much better what it is, but it means that there is no durability in running them and that means potential DNFs.”
It is the same element that Lewis Hamilton changed at the last race in Turkey, and has increased suspicions that the championship contender will not be able to get to the end of the season without another penalty of his own.
The US GP is the first of six races to finish the season, and Hamilton trails Max Verstappen by six points. Both drivers are currently on their fourth engines of the campaign.
There are now three Mercedes-powered cars with grid penalties for this weekend, with Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin and George Russell in the Williams also dropping back.
Vettel and Russell have multiple elements changed on their engines, including the turbos and MGU-Hs, and so will start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid.
Bottas, who won the last race in Turkey as Hamilton fought back from his engine penalty, will start five places lower than his qualifying position.
“The penalty is less than the previous one but it’s still not nice because it’s such a tight battle,” said Wolff. “Even if you’re on pole, you’re going to have a difficult time to have back.”