Heading into the final five races Fernando Alonso is at a disadvantage with his engines.
He has no new engines left to use this season, while all his title rivals have at least one and Mark Webber has two.
How will this affect the championship battle? See below for data on the teams’ engine use this year.
Each driver may use a maximum of eight engines during a season. They get a ten-place grid penalty the first time they use any further engines.
Teams use old race engines for practice running on Friday, so don’t be surprised if we see some of those going pop.
Alternatively teams may choose to limit the amount of practice they do. Remember how Sebastian Vettel missed almost all of first practice at Monza last year.
If a team considers it inevitable that they will have to use a ninth engine, they may choose to do so tactically. Better to take a ten-place grid drop at Interlagos or Yas Island than a track like Suzuka or Singapore where overtaking is more difficult.
And, as we saw with Pedro de la Rosa at Spa, if a driver has qualified at the back and has already used his eighth engine, they may take the opportunity to open up a ninth and take the grid penalty when it doesn’t matter.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will have to contest the all of the final five races with used engines.
The good news for them is that the next track on the calendar, Singapore, is the least-demanding in terms of engine use. It’s the only track on the calendar where the drivers are at full throttle for less than half of the lap (48%, according to Mercedes).
Ferrari have been a step behind their rivals on engine use for most of the season, after it changed the engines in both of its cars in Bahrain.
Those engines were examined and re-used in China. The team later made changes to its engines, with the permission of the FIA, and has had no apparent problems since introducing the revised versions in Spain.
Ferrari must have confidence in their remaining engines as they felt happy to use new ones for both of the last two races at power-hungry tracks.
However Alonso may have less total life in his remaining engines than Felipe Massa, following his engine failure in Malaysia. Ferrari said at the time:
Fernando’s engine suffered a structural failure, of a type we had never seen during the winter. We believe there was a role played by the unusual way in which the driver had to use the engine during the race, because of the gear selection problems he experienced right from the start.
Keep an eye on the Friday mileages to see if Ferrari shift more of the development work towards his team mate.
Red Bull have been more concerned with the performance of their Renault engines than reliability.
Some problems that were originally blamed on their engines later turned out to be weaknesses in other areas – such as Vettel’s brake sticking during the race at Monza.
Mark Webber has had a couple of stoppages during practice with apparent engine problems, in Istanbul and Monza.
But on the whole things are looking better for Red Bull than they did this time last year.
Webber, along with both drivers from the factory Renault team have managed to save two new engines so far.
This should give them the opportunity to turn the revs up in some of the later races. And, given how competitive the R30 has been, this could cause some headaches for the championship front-runners.
If you’re building an F1 car of your own then the engine you want to get your hands on is the Mercedes-Benz FO 108X.
McLaren, Force India and the works Mercedes team have made excellent use of their Brixworth-built V8s this year.
Indeed, the patterns of use between the six drivers who have them are near-identical. All six used a new engine for the first time at Monza last weekend, and all six still have one more fresh engine left.
The best of the ‘power tracks’ have been and gone this year. But there are still places where the Mercedes’ grunt will come to the aid of these teams – on the uphill climb from Juncao at Interlagos, through the final sector at Suzuka, and down the two long straights at Yas Island.
See here for a list of how many engines each driver has used this year: New engines used in 2010
Image © Ferrari spa