Lewis Hamilton has dismissed plans by Formula One to ban the use of engine qualifying modes as an attempt to slow down his Mercedes team. Before the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, the FIA wrote to the teams warning modes that turn up the power in the combustion engine would be made illegal by the next round in Spa. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, warned that banning alternate modes in the race could also make overtaking more difficult.
Hamilton leads the world championship by 30 points from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won the last race at Silverstone. The British driver has three poles from five races this season, with Mercedes claiming the top spot in all five meetings. Mercedes have repeatedly displayed an ability to ramp up their pace in qualifying after practice and Hamilton believed his team were being targeted in a season where, with the exception of the last round, they have looked utterly dominant. Their engine has appeared to be comfortably the strongest on the grid.
“It’s not a surprise, they are always trying to slow us down,” he said. However, he remained confident that even if the rules are changed Mercedes would retain their advantage. “At the end of the day the guys at our team have done such a great job with the engine,” he said. “This is obviously to slow us down but I don’t think they will get the result that they want.”
The FIA secretary general, Peter Bayer, has written to teams warning they wanted to remove adjustability of power between practice and qualifying. He said a full regulatory implementation is set to be imposed before the Belgian Grand Prix. He also stated it was expected the engine would be required to run in a single mode during the race. This would present further issues with teams often turning their engine down to minimise wear and turning it up when required to enhance the opportunities of overtaking.
Bottas was fearful that the rule change would have a detrimental effect on racing rather than qualifying. “The first thing that came to my mind was that in a race every team has different modes,” he said.
“We are using different modes if we’re defending or attacking. If it was the same engine mode for everyone in the race there would be less overtaking. Everyone would be in the same mode instead of playing with them and trying to maximise every situation by using more power or less.”