George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team are pondering on whether to take a grid penalty this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have used up their penalty-free allocation of power unit components for the season.
One of Hamilton’s engines failed during free practice at Zandvoort, with rival Max Verstappen also awaiting to take a grid penalty too thanks to the first-lap collision at the British Grand Prix.
However, both teams will be waiting to see who blinks first at Monza, with Wolff admitting “there are thoughts” on if they risk a penalty this weekend for any implementation of a brand new element.
Last time out at the Dutch Grand Prix, Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez took on a new power unit after qualifying, forcing him to start from the pit lane.
But with both main rivals left with no choice but to take penalties, Wolff admitted they are weighing up their options ahead of sprint qualifying.
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“I think we are all struggling on power units,” Wolff said, speaking to Sky Sports F1. “Maybe not only reliability but also how these power units work hard and how they’re degrading.
“There are thoughts, definitely, for this weekend but we haven’t come to a conclusion yet.”
Hamilton topped the first session ahead of Friday’s qualifying session, beating Verstappen by almost half a second at the Mercedes favoured track.
“I am quite pleased [with the pace],” Wolff continued.
“As it seems we only saw one lap really turned up with the engine and that was Perez pretty early on in the session so I think they probably have three, three and a half tenths in the pocket with the power unit but then we have a tyre difference.
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“I am actually pretty pleased but you know how it goes, you’re all jolly and then three hours later you get one on the nose.”
Mercedes have a strong track record at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, with Hamilton racking up five wins alone at the circuit, with four of the wins coming in the current turbo-hybrid era in Formula One. However, he has not won in Italy since 2018.
Verstappen meanwhile has never finished higher than fifth at the circuit, and last year failed to finish the race after abandoning his car in the pit lane on lap 31 after a series of technical problems that plagued him from the start, in a jumbled up race won by Pierre Gasly in an AlphaTauri.
The championship leader, who has won the last two races, raised concerns about the strength of the Silver Arrows heading into the weekend.
“I expect Monza to suit Mercedes as it hasn’t been our best track for the last few years but this year we are more competitive so you never know.
“If we continue what we have been doing, working well together as a team, and nail every little detail then we can be competitive but Mercedes might have a top-speed advantage on us.”
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