MONZA, Italy (Reuters) – Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton said he saw a clampdown on engine modes as a compliment to his dominant Mercedes team and suspected the move could backfire on rivals seeking to slow him down.
Speaking at the Italian Grand Prix on Thursday, the six- times world champion said the so-called ‘party mode’ ban could even give him a boost on Sunday.
Teams must now run their engines in the same mode in qualifying and the race after the governing FIA issued a technical directive aimed at making it easier to monitor power units.
Until now drivers could use different modes for more performance when needed, particularly in qualifying.
Mercedes have started all seven races this season on pole position and won six, with Hamilton triumphant five times.
“What’s crazy is this switch, they’ve said it’s for one reason and then you’ve got Red Bull who came out and said ‘No, no, we were going after them to hold them back,” he told Sky Sports television.
“So someone is not telling the truth. All we can do is just smile and keep working hard,” added the Briton.
“I think (it) is a compliment at the end of the day,” he told reporters.
Williams driver George Russell, whose struggling team use Mercedes engines, said champions Mercedes were so far ahead in qualifying it would make little difference.
“If anything it’s only going to help them even more in the race, so the whole idea of trying to slow them down is actually going to go completely the opposite way, and is only going to enhance their performance,” he added.
“I think what Mercedes have done to improve the engine to allow us to run a very high engine mode for the races is really impressive. She’s going to be flying on the Sundays.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)