Hamilton will take a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after Mercedes opted to fit a fourth internal combustion engine (ICE) into the seven-time world champion’s car amid concerns over the reliability of its power unit. 

The aim for Hamilton will be to get as far up the order to limit the damage to title rival Max Verstappen, with the Red Bull driver just two points behind him in the world championship standings heading into the final seven events. 

After Hamilton topped both practice sessions at Istanbul Park on Friday, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin revealed the team had selected Turkey for the engine penalty because it believed it the circuit would present Hamilton with the best opportunity to recover positions in the race. 

“It’s difficult because you could look at it and say Mexico, normally Red Bull are very strong there, the Honda’s a strong power unit,” Shovlin said. 

“Would we resign ourselves to the fact that we can’t beat them? But equally, if you’re not competitive, then it’s harder to fight through the field.

“This is a circuit that we thought the car would work well at and give us a good chance of attacking. But the midfield is fast now, so it’s quite difficult to overtake anywhere.

“But it’s more that philosophy of do you do it where you don’t think you’re going to be quick or do you do it where you think you’re going to be quick? 

“On Sunday, we’ll find out whether we’ve made a good decision or not.”

Shovlin explained that Mercedes carried out a normal programme with Hamilton on Friday with the aim of him qualifying “as far up the grid as possible” in order to boost his fightback chances. 

“Whether we can get Lewis back on the podium, that’s often defined about what happens in the first stint, whether you can pick off some of those cars,” Shovlin said. 

“Because throughout that stint, the race leaders are always getting away from you. It was very difficult to predict how well we’d get through traffic in Sochi. It was difficult just because we were understeering in the final sector, and that made it quite hard.

“Probably the hardest thing to simulate is really how close can you actually follow. Can you sit in someone’s gearbox without killing the tyres, without losing so much downforce that you can’t stay there?

“And that’s the bit that’s really difficult to predict.”

Asked what Mercedes had learned on Friday, Shovlin replied: “Overtaking is pretty hard. 

“It’s often a bit more difficult in the free practice sessions because you don’t run long stints on the tyres. You don’t get differences in degradation building up.

“So on that side, today’s indications are probably it’s a bit tougher than we would like. But you don't always get what you want.

“What we’ve also seen is that the car is working really well. Both drivers have had a strong day, which is good.

“As much as the drivers’ championship draws everyone’s focus towards what is going on with Lewis, with Valtteri [Bottas], the objective is quite clear that we need to get pole and we want to win the race.