LE CASTELLET, France, June 21 (Reuters) - Mercedes kept everyone guessing on Thursday whether Lewis Hamilton will have an engine upgrade for the French Grand Prix but the Formula One world champion said he was not sweating either way.
The Briton and team mate Valtteri Bottas are due to have fresh engines for Sunday’s eighth round of the championship, with the rules limiting drivers to three power units for the 21-race season.
The upgrade was supposed to have been introduced in Canada two weekends ago but was postponed late in the day due to a ‘quality issue’.
A Mercedes spokesman said the plan was to have it at Le Castellet but final confirmation would not come until Friday practice.
“The championship is all about tiny margins,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday. “I don’t know what the team have planned for me.
“The fresher engine this weekend will be great as it will have more power than the one I used at the last race. I trust the team, and if we have to use the older-specification engine, I am not worried.”
The older-specification engine would still be a fresh one but its use would preclude the introduction of an upgrade for another seven races, unless a penalty was taken.
Hamilton is a point behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, both of them four-time world champions, ahead of Sunday’s race which is the first French Grand Prix in a decade and first at Le Castellet since 1990.
The track shares some characteristics with Barcelona, where Mercedes were dominant earlier in the year, but practice will be more important than usual given the lack of past data.
Vettel said he did not think the engine upgrade, if it happened, would necessarily make a big difference to the outcome.
“I believe they’re very strong no matter what...some races suit you a bit better for some reasons and others don’t,” he told reporters.
“Even if they stay with that engine, with that advantage they’ve had in that race (Barcelona) we can all put a lot of horsepower and a lot of downforce and our car still would lack pace compared to them.
“Is it all in the car? All in the engine? I don’t think so,” added the German, the only driver to have won three races this year.
“They had obviously a great weekend (in Barcelona) and everybody else was a little bit behind. Other weekends it’s been the other way around, so we’ll see how it’ll be this week and then the weeks after.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ian Chadband)