Turkish GP: Hamilton faces 10-place grid penalty after internal combustion engine change

Hamilton's Mercedes W12 has a new internal combustion engine (ICE) and exhaust, but he had already used up his allotted number of new ICEs.

Lewis Hamilton in a file photo. (Image credit: Twitter/ F1)

Lewis Hamilton will face a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix after testing a new Mercedes engine at Istanbul Park. Hamilton, who leads the championship by two points after winning the Russian Grand Prix, in which Red Bull’s Max Verstappen improved from 20th to second after using a new power unit, was expected to use a new engine before this weekend. His Mercedes W12 has a new internal combustion engine (ICE) and exhaust, but the driver has only used up his allotted number of new ICEs. He’s set to receive a 10-place penalty for exceeding his allocation of new engines, but Hamilton came from sixth to win the 2020 Turkish GP. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will also start from the back with a new power unit.

Mercedes has taken a fourth part, one more than allowed, to reduce the chances of a failure for the Briton during the championship’s final laps. However, because he has only one power-unit component – the internal combustion engine – he avoids a full grid drop.

The goal is to lose as little ground as possible to title rival Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver is two points behind Hamilton in the championship after recovering from the back of the grid after a one-engine penalty to finish second behind the seven-time champion in Russia last weekend.


Hamilton won Friday’s first practise at Istanbul Park, 0.425 seconds ahead of Verstappen, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third and Valtteri Bottas’ second Mercedes fourth. The silver arrows decided to change the engine for reliability and performance reasons after Hamilton lost one of his three engines in practise at the Dutch Grand Prix last month.

Bringing in the fourth internal combustion engine gives them a little more peace of mind as well as overall performance for the championship run-in. The decision was based on simulations of future races, with the team attempting to balance the negative impact of a penalty with the risk of reliability issues. It was influenced by the fact that a grid penalty like this is far less damaging than a failure in a race and a penalty in the following one. Mercedes stated that they only needed to replace the internal combustion engine and not any of the other components, including the turbo, hybrid system, battery, and electronics.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, who was fifth fastest in first practise, has already confirmed that he will start from the back of the grid due to a full engine change. Esteban Ocon was sixth fastest, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, Fernando Alonso’s second Alpine, and Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez. Throughout the session, both Red Bull drivers complained about a lack of front grip.

The hour of racing was incident-free, and the track had gained a lot of grip compared to last year, when it was resurfaced and oils seeping out of the bitumen caused an extreme lack of grip on its return to F1 after a 10-year break.

Sportslumo Desk

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