Mercedes is yet to get to the bottom of why its latest Formula 1 engine has been ‘smoking’ during the early rounds of the 2020 season.

Intermittent puffs of smoke have been seen coming out of the rear of both W11s driven by Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, and the Mercedes customer cars of Williams and Racing Point at times throughout the opening three races of the campaign in Austria and Hungary.

Mercedes was hampered by poor engine reliability in pre-season testing at Barcelona but team boss Toto Wolff is certain the the unusual action is not related to a potential reliability issue, though he admitted he does not fully understand why it is happening.

“You can see it when the oil tank is filled up at the beginning, we seem to have an issue that the oil gets out of the chassis,” Wolff said at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

“We don’t know where that comes from, but it seems [to be] when we fill it up to the top we are not in much control of how much escapes at the beginning.

“We see it on all the Mercedes engines and it’s something that we need to understand and get on top of.

“It’s not a reliability issue, which I’m glad that it isn’t, and probably in Silverstone I can respond to what it is, because at the moment I don’t know.”

Wolff said Mercedes was pushed to “burnout” levels by Ferrari last year and believes it is “ironic” that the German manufacturer has taken a big step forward in performance following an FIA technical directive that appears to have impacted on the competitiveness of Ferrari’s power unit.

“There's a clear regulation on power units," Wolff explained. "There have been clarifications in Austin [last year], what is allowed to do or not, which were important, but nothing that was in any way surprising because if you comply to the regulations that was anyway clear.

"I think the irony of the story is that we were pushed by some of our competitors to absolutely new levels. It brought us to almost burnout last year, to develop and innovate in a way to be competitive on track.

"And here we go, I think we made a substantial jump in performance from 2019 to 2020. Because we needed to last year, and that is a little bit ironic for me.”



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