Lewis Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty at the Bahrain Grand Prix as a result of an unscheduled gearbox change.
After an FIA document revealed a new gearbox for the four-time world champion, Mercedes confirmed to RACER that Hamilton had been “very lucky to finish in Melbourne”, with a hydraulic leak given as the reason for the change.
Gearboxes have to do six consecutive events before they can be changed, although a driver who does not finish the previous race is able to replace a gearbox without penalty. However, as Hamilton finished second in the Australian Grand Prix, the new gearbox incurs an automatic five-place grid drop.
With Hamilton now limited to a highest possible starting position of sixth place on the grid, Mercedes technical director James Allison admits the team has work to do in order to be in a position to fight for pole position with Valtteri Bottas and victory with either car.
“Although we were untroubled by any reliability issues [in Bahrain], and we ran through our program as expected, it wasn’t our best day from a performance point of view,” Allison said. “We’ve got more to do overnight and in the session tomorrow to give us a car that will allow us to have a good fight in qualifying and on Sunday. The base is okay but we have not yet found the sort of edge that we had in Melbourne.”
Bottas also has a new gearbox this weekend after taking a grid penalty at the last race, having required a change after crashing during qualifying in Melbourne. The two Haas drivers and Marcus Ericsson are the others to take a new gearbox in Bahrain after having failed to finish the last race.