Ahead of the Chinese Grand-Prix last weekend it was announced that McLaren were using their fresh engines there instead of in the final race at Brazil. Now, after all the correct checks have been done, McLaren say it was the right choice.
Although McLaren has not had to use its one permitted penalty-free engine change on Lewis Hamilton’s car this season, the "joker" rule does not apply at the final round of the season. This would mean that Hamilton would be hit with a 10-place grid drop if his engine needed to be switched before the race.
Hamilton's rival for the championship, Felipe Massa, will have a fresh V8 underneath him as he heads into his home race, one that has become the biggest F1 event of this year.
McLaren CEO, Martin Whitmarsh, recognises that McLaren made the same decision last year, which resulted in Hamilton's MP4-23 gearbox having problems, costing him the title, but believes this year will turn out differently.
"Of course, we are keenly aware that the world championship could be won or lost by a mechanical failure, as a result, we are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to minimise this possibility."
Whitmarsh continued with his post-race debrief saying, “For example, that meant consciously turning down Lewis’s engine on the run to the flag in China in order to give him plenty of engine life for Brazil."
Although, on paper, McLaren appear to have the more reliable car, three of the last five races have seen Hamilton's team-mate, Kovalainen, suffer three problems, one being an engine blow-up.
Whitmarsh was then asked, if he believed Hamilton's car would hit any engine problems, to which he told ITV, "We don’t foresee this [an engine change] being an issue.
“Lewis’s engine will be on its second race in Sao Paulo while Heikki will use a brand new V8, so we can balance the two approaches to engine life.
“In terms of gearbox life, Lewis’s will be on race three while Heikki will start the weekend with a new ’box—but the level of reliability inherent in the gearbox means we anticipate fewer problems in this area."
With only one race left to go, could we see a repeat of last year's championship decider or with Hamilton's MP4-23 make it over the line and seal the title for the 23-year-old? Time will tell, it isn't going to be a race that you'd want to miss.
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