Horner: Mercedes struggles on engine reliability "very unusual"

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Mercedes’ current engine reliability struggles are “very unusual” and could play a “key role” in deciding the Formula 1 title race.

Horner: Mercedes struggles on engine reliability "very unusual"

Mercedes revealed on Friday ahead of the United States Grand Prix that Valtteri Bottas would be taking a third grid penalty in four races after having a new engine fitted to his car, as the team manages an ongoing issue. 

Mercedes customer teams Aston Martin and Williams have also been forced into engine penalties for this weekend's race at the Circuit of the Americas, leaving Sebastian Vettel and George Russell at the back of the grid. Bottas will drop five places back from his qualifying position.

Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff said on Friday that the issue was “not trivial” and had left the manufacturer “hanging on for dear life in supplying all customers” as it tries to understand the problem.

Any engine reliability setbacks could have a particular impact on Lewis Hamilton, who finds himself trailing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just six points at the top of the drivers’ championship with six races remaining.

Speaking in Austin, Horner said that reliability “could play a key role” in the championship, adding: “Reliability can be decisive. You’ve got to be at the end of the race.”

PLUS: The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen

Bottas took a fresh power unit in both Italy and Russia, meaning the additional engine in Austin will leave him with a large pool of available parts heading into the closing stages of the season.

Horner felt Mercedes was “weighing up that risk versus reward” of penalties versus added performance by having more engines to cover the remaining races, but said it was “very unusual for Mercedes” to be struggling with reliability.

“They’ve obviously been the benchmark of reliability the last six or seven years,” Horner said.

“So it’s unusual that they are in this situation.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Verstappen moved onto a new power unit at the Russian Grand Prix which Red Bull hoped would see him to the end of the season without any further penalties.

“We’re hoping to get it through to the end of the year with what we have, but that’s our assumption,” Horner said.

“I think the situations can change quite quickly, as you can see, so you know, you can never say never.

“But we feel that by taking a penalty in Sochi, it got us back into a reasonable position.”

Red Bull has been a factor in the F1 title fight for the first time since its last championship win eight years ago, aided in part by engine partner Honda’s gains for this season.

As well as Verstappen’s own title aspirations, Red Bull is also in the hunt for the constructors’ championship, trailing Mercedes by 36 points.

"I think we are pushing them hard this year,” Horner said.

“We’ve really thrown everything at this season and at pretty much every race we’ve managed to give them a hard time.

“So when you consider how dominant they’ve been the last seven years and that this car is largely a carry-over of last year’s car, which was arguably their most dominant car, it’s testimony to the [Red Bull] team.

“They’ve got ourselves into this position to be challenging them with six races to go.”

shares
comments

Related video

Brown: "Very flattering" for McLaren to top F1 global fan survey
Previous article

Brown: "Very flattering" for McLaren to top F1 global fan survey

Next article

F1 United States GP qualifying - Start time, how to watch & more

F1 United States GP qualifying - Start time, how to watch & more
Load comments
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Plus

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. JAMES NEWBOLD hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwarts

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Plus

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Plus

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021 Plus

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as STUART CODLING finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton Plus

The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls a remarkable champion

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022
How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam Plus

How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam

George Russell joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes this year gives it arguably the best line-up in Formula 1 – if it can avoid too many fireworks. After serving his apprenticeship at Williams, Russell is the man that Mercedes team believes can lead it in the post-Hamilton era, but how will he fare against the seven-time champion? Autosport heard from the man himself

Formula 1
Jan 6, 2022
How F1 pulled off its second pandemic season and its 2022 implications Plus

How F1 pulled off its second pandemic season and its 2022 implications

OPINION: The Formula 1 season just gone was the second to be completed under the dreaded shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in many ways it was much more ‘normal’ than 2020. Here’s the story of how the championship’s various organisers delivered a second challenging campaign, which offers a glimpse at what may be different next time around

Formula 1
Jan 5, 2022
The adapt or die mentality that will shape F1's future Plus

The adapt or die mentality that will shape F1's future

As attitudes towards the motor car and what powers it change, Formula 1 must adapt its offering. MARK GALLAGHER ponders the end of fossil fuels

Formula 1
Jan 3, 2022