Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are all braced for grid penalties in the second part of the 2021 F1 season after all of them might have lost their second engine in the last two races.
Following a good getaway at the start, Leclerc was a victim of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll outbraking himself in the wet conditions at the start of the Hungaroring race. Stroll’s mistake meant that the Monegasque was unable to continue the 70-race Budapest race as his car suffered a significant amount of damage.
While the damage was enough to eliminate the two-time race winner from the race, it looked like that it did not cause damage to the power unit given that is was a relatively low-speed impact. However, Ferrari sent the power unit back to its Maranello factory, and the analysis revealed that it could not be used again.
“Examination of the number 16 SF21 carried out yesterday in Maranello revealed that on top of [the crash damage], the engine was irreparably damaged and cannot be used again, following the impact from Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin,” Ferrari said in a statement.
“This is a further blow for Scuderia Ferrari and the Monegasque driver. This damage has a financial impact and also racing ramifications, given that over the remaining 12 race weekends this season, it is highly likely the team could be obliged to fit a fourth ICE Charles’ SF21, thus incurring grid penalties.”
The incident means that Lecelrc has lost his second engine, forcing him to start using his third ICE at the Belgian Grand Prix which will be the last new engine allowed by the Sporting Regulation. It seems highly unlikely that the Monegasque will be able to complete the remaining 12 races with the same engine, meaning that he might face a grid drop penalty later in the season.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) August 3, 2021
Red Bull drivers Segio Perez and Max Verstappen are facing similar prospects in the second half of the 2021 F1 season with both of them having lost a relatively fresh engine through no fault of their own.
The Mexican was collected by the out-of-control Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at the Hungaroring’s first corner after the Finn outbraked himself after the start, causing the retirement of three drivers – Perez, Verstappen and McLaren driver Lando Norris. Perez suffered major damage to his car, but he was able to continue on the opening lap until the engine stopped in Sector 3.
Red Bull’s engine partner Honda said that the initial inspection pointed to the power unit being permanently out of action.
“There are some abnormalities in the data, so I feel that it may be quite difficult to continue using it in the future,” said Honda F1 boss Toyoharu Tanabe.
Should Honda come to the conclusion that the engine is irreparable, Perez will be forced to move onto his third and final power unit of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix, meaning that he will be possibly handed a grid-drop penalty for a fourth fresh engine later in the season.
His team mate Verstappen finds himself in a similarly difficult situation. His misfortunes started at the British GP where he suffered a 51 crash after being tagged by Lewis Hamilton.
Coming to the Budapest round, Honda had concerns about the crash engine, but the analysis carried out at its Sakura-based factory indicated that the unit can be used again. The Japanese engine-maker installed the engine back into Verstappen’s RB16B for the Friday practices for the Hungarian Grand Prix in order to perform test runs.
The initial analysis revealed no issues, but Honda found cracks after it carried out physical inspections following the Saturday qualitying session.
Commenting on Verstappen’s engine, Tanabe added: “After qualifying, the car came back, we removed the cowling, removed the cover, and found them while checking the PU.”
“We had checked the same thing before the qualifying, but there was nothing wrong with it. However, when we checked it after qualifying, there were cracks and the oil was seeping out. There was no impact on the data or performance so it was not a part that appears in the data,” Tanabe was quoted as saying by autosport.com
Despite enjoying a comfortable 33-point championship lead ahead of the British Grand Prix, the unfortunate crashes at Silverstone and the Hungaroring, where Verstappen was eliminated in incident caused by Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, the Dutchman is now facing an uphill battle in the title battle.
He now lies eight points adrift of Hamilton in the standings, and a grid penalty for a fourth engine would cause another major blow to his title aspirations.
The question is for Red Bull and Ferrari where a grid penalty would cause the least damage to their championships. Currently, the most obvious choice would be the Italian Grand Prix. Although it is only the third race of the summer break, the Sprint Qualitying is set to return at Monza, giving the three drivers a sprint race and the grand prix itself to claw their way back towards the sharp end of the field. Moreover, they can then rotate their two fresh engines in the remaining races of the season.
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