At the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton found himself in a bit of a bind. The reigning world champion had used his allocated engine supply for the season and there were still 9 races to go.
With each extra engine used over their allocated 5 for the season, the driver must take a grid penalty, so it would appear that any hopes he had to fight his teammate for this year’s championship crown were all but lost.
Then, the team opted to do something different….before each free practice session and qualifying and the race, they changed as many parts as they could, resulting in a 55 place grid penalty.
The reasoning behind this move was that by doing it this way, they would be able to stockpile enough power units to see Lewis through to the end of the season and they would only have to sacrifice one race, instead of several. Not that Hamilton sacrificed much at all, as he still came through to finish on the podium from his back row starting position.
Last season the rule was that if you didn’t take all your penalty in one race, it was carried over to the next and the next if need be until all the grid demotions had been completed, however that rule was scrapped for this year, so Mercedes could take as many penalties as they needed and it would just mean the back of the grid for one race.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso did the same thing as Hamilton and took a 75 place grid demotion, meaning that Hamilton and Alonso have more engines at their disposal than any other driver on the grid. Hardly seems fair does it?
Well, it seems as if the FIA didn’t think it was fair either and as such they have now put a new rule in place that will stop Hamilton, or any other driver, from exploiting that particular loophole in the regulations in the future…..
“During any single event, if a driver introduces more than one of a power unit element that is subject to penalty, only the last element fitted may be used at subsequent events without further penalty. This is to prevent the stockpiling of spare power unit elements.,” a statement from the FIA read.