Mercedes have opted to take their latest engine to the Australian Grand Prix despite some concerns that they will have to run it in a conservative mode due to fears of reliability.
It means that Mercedes, Force India, Williams could be slightly down on power, although any problem with the Mercedes M08 EQ Power+ unit could be resolved in a free practice session prior to quali and the race itself.
At some circuits, it would give Ferrari and Red Bull an added boost in aiming for a double podium, and the midfielders like Haas and Renault the opportunity to grab some high points finishes if the strong looking Williams and ever threatening Force India are unable to run at full power. But there aren’t any huge straights at Albert Park, so full power won’t be as big a variable in Australia. It will be more about the delivery of power.
It could always fall into Mercedes’ favour though, if Hamilton and Bottas still manage to qualify on the front row and come away from the first race of 2017 with a 1-2 finish on a conservative power mode, it starts to look like a two-horse race, and the prancing horse will be left itching its mane.
Motorsport.com reports that Mercedes might have been running a conservative power mode throughout testing, but concludes that this could have been because on full power, with a reported 70bhp extra in the dyno, the power unit could be prone to attrition.
What Mercedes could have been doing in testing is seeing how competitive they could be on a power unit delivering at 90%, whilst the customer teams run on 100%. This gives Mercedes sufficient data on two fronts, it means they can spot and resolve issues when the PU is in a conservative mode prior to being in a leading position during a race in which they might want to just bring the car home and manage a gap. Last season, Hamilton mentioned the virtue of not even having to run on full-power a few times. The Australian Grand Prix gets underway next weekend with Free Practice 1, a session that doesn’t count for points, but usually sets the tone for the weekend. If any of the cars have a Power Unit problem in this session, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the weekend.