Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has conceded the team was forced to be "a bit cautious" across the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend but has made clear it was not race defining.
Due to recent failures with the MGU-K [motor generator unit kinetic] with customer teams Racing Point and Williams, Mercedes opted to be "conservative" with the system at the Yas Marina Circuit to avoid a repeat issue in the season-ending race.
On the surface, it appeared as if that was at the heart of why Max Verstappen claimed his 10th grand prix victory from pole position by a margin of nearly 16 seconds to Valtteri Bottas, ending Mercedes' domination of a race it had won for six consecutive seasons.
But aked how much pace Mercedes had lost through the change, Shovlin said: “A small amount. Not an amount that is going to determine the race result.
"You’re talking significantly less than a tenth of a second so not the difference between first and second.”
Neither Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton appeared to have been told about the change in the wake of finishing second and third respectively, with Verstappen seeming to break the news in the post-race press conference.
Suggesting himself the MGU-K tweak may have played a role, the Dutchman said: "I also read that they [Mercedes] had to turn the engines down a bit, so that’s not helping for them."
Hamilton questioned the Red Bull driver, commenting "Is that right? I don’t think that’s the case", with Bottas adding: "Maybe it is, but we don’t know."
Explaining why his drivers were aware of the change, Shovlin said: "When you don’t understand exactly the string of issues, all you can do is just be a bit cautious so during the race we were trying to reduce the duty marginally.
"The drivers wouldn’t have necessarily been aware of it. It was just something we were trying to manage in the background.”
In light of the recent failures to the cars of Sergio Perez and George Russell, Shovlin added: "I would say that, rather than being acutely aware of a specific problem, we operated the power unit in a way that was as conservative as we could be in order to try and avoid a problem."
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