Toto Wolff makes worrying admission as he explains call to change Lewis Hamilton’s engine

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits they still haven’t fully worked out what their engine issues are this season after Lewis Hamilton was forced to take a fifth ICE (internal combustion engine) ahead of the Brazillian Grand Prix.

The penalty means the seven-time world champion must start the race on Sunday no higher than sixth, all the while trailing his main title rival Max Verstappen by 19 points with just four races remaining.

Mercedes have been battling with their engines this season, with Valtteri Bottas taking a sixth ahead of the United States Grand Prix.

Speaking after Friday’s first session practice session in Sao Paulo, Wolff explained why Mercedes felt the need to take another engine.

“We feel we can score more points,” said Wolff speaking to Sky Sports F1. “We have degradation on the engine, that until the end of the season it’s just going to continue to decrease in power and we haven’t yet realised why that is. We’re just seeing it creep down.”

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“Without going into specific, every engine is degrading and we’ve seen it over the past years that over 1000 kilometres, there is a certain amount of kilowatts that the engine is degrading, and ours is just degrading much more than the average of the past few years and that increases from weekend to weekend.

“So if we keep the engine we’re going to for not be competitive in Saudi and Abu Dhabi.

“We have two engines [to last until the end of the season]. Just the new one and the current one.

The Sao Paulo Grand Prix is the last of three events to run the ‘sprint’ format this season.

Like Silverstone and Monza, qualifying moves from Friday will set the grid for the shortened race on Saturday.

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The results of that race then decide the grid for Sunday’s race, with points for the top three fastest drivers on Saturday.

Yet, it’s a format that seems to suit Verstappen, who has gone on to take pole position at both the British and Italian Grand Prix.

But Wolff added Mercedes felt their engine would not have lasted the weekend had they not changed it.

When asked if he felt the sprint qualifying format would give them a slight advantage despite the penalty, Wolff added: “We hope so yeah. This is an opportunity obviously, Saudi looks like a good opportunity too but we think by the end the motor is gonna lose more power.

“So in terms of our simulations, that’s the right place to do it.

“I think this is the final one that we need to take.”

Hamilton set the fastest time in first practice ahead of his main title rival Max Verstappen.

But Wolff says they don’t feel 100 per cent confident Red Bull were showing their full potential.

“Well, I think we started on the wrong foot right at the beginning of the session and the Red Bulls haven’t run at the end, but we have more performance to come that we know that we have in the pocket.

“And at least it’s not as bad as it has looked at the beginning of the session.”

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