Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has admitted he might receive future grid penalties this season after taking a new power unit to the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.
The two-time defending Formula One world champion has endured several reliability issues in 2016, meaning he is on his fifth turbocharger, fifth MGU-H, fourth energy store and fourth control electronics.
Once any driver uses the sixth example of any component, they must incur a 10-place grid penalty.
And with 13 races left in the season, including Sunday’s Grand Prix in Austria, Hamilton believes it is “inevitable” he will be forced to take a penalty.
“I’m starting with my last engine this weekend,” the 31-year-old said on Thursday.
“And so I will have at least one race where I start dead last, most likely two probably, with two more new engines I have to take, the sixth and seventh.
“The worst thing is that I’m the only Mercedes driver to have that. For sure it’s difficult for us as a team, and it’s difficult considering that we are the Mercedes team, so if there were 40 engines you would hope that we would have the best of the 40.
“But that’s just the way it goes, and I have to do the best I can with the one I have now, and the hopefully the next one or two beyond that.”
Hamilton is one of eight drivers on the grid with a Mercedes engine, but the only one that has been impacted to such an extent this early in the season.
“For sure it’s not easy when you look at the table and you see the eight Mercedes drivers, and everyone else is on normal plan, everyone is on their second engine, and still has four left, and I have one left,” he said.
“For sure it doesn’t feel great, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added: “I think it’s inevitable that he will get a penalty at a certain stage, and it really pisses me off.
“I wouldn’t say there will be two [penalties]. The guys are so revved up, [Managing Director] Andy Cowell is so motivated to sort it out, and I have zero doubts that they will sort it out.”
Hamilton is second in the drivers’ standings, 24 points behind team-mate Nico Rosberg.