Valtteri Bottas will receive his sixth engine of the season at the United States Grand Prix and serve a five-place grid penalty.
With Sebastian Vettel and George Russell also taking on new power unit elements, questions are naturally being asked about the state of Mercedes’ engines.
“We’ve had, unfortunately, since mid-year, some reliability issues that are coming back,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports after Bottas’ engine swap was announced.
“I think we understand much better what it is, but it means there is no durability in them and that means potential DNFs.”
When asked if Mercedes was trying out new engine components to provide title contender Lewis Hamilton with the best equipment, Wolff said that was not the case.
“No, you need the same specification for everybody, you can’t make any difference between one engine or the other.”
Sky presenter Simon Lazenby then said he heard Mercedes’ engine problem might have “something to do with air valves”, but Wolff quickly responded: “You are being fed with a lot of bull***!”
“We don’t need to talk about air valves or anything, because you and I wouldn’t understand what it is.”
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Regarding Bottas’ grid penalty, the Austrian said it wasn’t an ideal situation.
“It’s not good. The penalties are less than with the previous one, but it is still not nice because it’s such a tight fought battle.
“Even if you are on pole you’re going to have a difficult time to come back.”
Later, after Mercedes topped the US Grand Prix first free practice, Wolff gave his comments on the session.
“It’s really good, I think we’re gaining on the straights, and that is good. But the main gain is when you look at the speed trace with Verstappen through the fast corners and that is encouraging because they’re clearly running more drag.
“They need to run more drag but we’re still better through the corners. [Hamilton and Bottas] were pretty happy in Turkey also but, today, there was not a lot of complaining.”
However, Wolff isn’t sure Mercedes will be able to maintain its advantage over Red Bull throughout the whole weekend.
“I don’t know if that gap is going to maintain. I’d wish so but, normally, they are creeping their way back.
“Let’s see what it gives tomorrow in qualifying but at least it’s a good FP1,” concluded the Austrian.