Safe for Lewis to pay penalty, get new parts?
LEWIS Hamilton returns to work at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend knowing he faces the prospect of grid penalties in the next few weeks that could dent his prospects of a fourth world championship.
After a four-week break for the European summer holidays, the defending three-time champion seeks his fifth consecutive victory for Mercedes and third at the majestic Spa circuit in the hope of increasing his 19-point lead with nine races to go.
The 31-year-old Briton reached his permitted maximum of five turbochargers and MGU-Hs at the Austrian Grand Prix, resulting in him having to nurse his engines, when possible, through recent races.
The regulations allow drivers five penalty-free changes of six different components before grid penalties of up to 15 places are handed out.
It is a situation that could mean Hamilton starts from the back of the grid in pursuit of his Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton and the Mercedes team may seek victory in Belgium and then take his new power-unit components - and the penalties - in Italy a week later. His outright pace makes it likely that he can rescue a result from the back of the grid there.
Or, as has been suggested by paddock insiders close to Mercedes, Hamilton may take all the new parts in Belgium where the length of the lap and the circuit characteristics would reduce the impact of a bad grid spot and help him recover points.
Whatever the decision, Rosberg will see Hamilton's misfortunes as a chance to regain the initiative and reduce his team-mate's lead in the title race.