McLaren will fit the last of its eight-engine allocation to its two cars ahead of this weekend's Korean Grand Prix, but insists that it does not have any worries for the four races that remain after Yeongam.
At the same time as Marussia was confirming that Charles Pic would have to take a ten-place grid drop - effectively putting him just a handful of places further back from where he would expect to qualify - for taking his ninth engine of the season [see separate story
], McLaren's Paddy Lowe was acknowledging the revelation that both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton would be using the last fresh units from their allocation.
However, while having no new engines to fall back on without facing a costly penalty, Lowe insists that reaching for the eighth powerplant is all part of McLaren's strategy and does not imply that the team is struggling for reliability in that area.
"We're not concerned at all," he insisted, "We're working exactly to the plan we set out at the beginning of the year. I think, like all the teams, we deploy our engines in what we consider the optimal pattern across the different races. Some circuits are better for power than others, so we happen to have used engine number eight where we thought it was best. Other teams have different solutions. But there's no concern at all, it's all to plan."
While the engines may be being used in strict rotation to give Button and Hamilton the best chance of success across the season, recent reliability problems in other areas have begun to give Lowe and his crew an unexpected headache. Hamilton was forced to drop out of the lead of the Singapore Grand Prix with a gearbox problem, and Button had to take a five-place penalty ahead of Japan after his 'box was found to have the same fault, despite making it to the podium at Marina Bay. The 2009 world champion had already had to forsake a potential second place at Monza when his fuel system developed a fault, while Hamilton battled a rear suspension issue to claim fifth at Suzuka last weekend.
"It hasn't been what we'd like," Lowe said of general reliability, "I think, if you look on a historical level, it hasn't been that bad, but [the problems] all came in a bit of a bundle through Italy and Singapore. It's very unfortunate for us but, actually, overall, looking at the season, it hasn't been so terrible."
Hamilton currently sits fourth in the world championship standings, but insists that he can still overcome the 44-point deficit to Fernando Alonso, while Button, a further 19 points adrift, has said that his focus is on helping McLaren overcome the 41-point deficit to Red Bull in the constructors' standings.