Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that engine reliability has taken a hit this season as manufacturers push “to the absolute limit”.

Formula 1’s hybrid era is in its fourth season, and while the life-span of power units has improved considerably, reliability is once again a critical factor as the limits are approached.

“You cannot afford to give up a hundredth of a second in a fight like the one between us and Ferrari,” Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport.

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But although engine performance is obviously important, Valtteri Bottas said reliability could actually be a major factor in the outcome of the championship.

“A zero point score could hurt in the end,” said the Finn who retired from the Spanish Grand prix after an unexpected Mercedes engine failure.

“If Lewis (Hamilton) had the problem (in Barcelona), Sebastian (Vettel) would now be more than 30 points ahead.”

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While Wolff admitted that Bottas’ engine issue had been costly, he also said he was confident the source of the problem had been resolved.

“It was painful to lose 15 valuable points with Valtteri retiring from P3,” he said.

“We’ve identified the root cause of the problem, which was the turbo. We haven’t seen that defect before, which shows you that you need to be double diligent.

“This is a technical sport and if you stretch your limits, you’ll encounter technical problems.”

The intense rivalry among the front-runners which is pushing cars and drivers to the limit is inducing a sense of excitement however which Wolff more than welcomes.

“Every weekend will push us to the limit; this is the new reality of Formula One in 2017.

“The last three years were extraordinary. But this season I have re-discovered why I love the sport. I love the intense competition.

“This competition means that you won’t be winning easily – but that you’ll have a fierce fight on your hands.

“Because of that, the feeling is even greater when you manage to come out on top, as we did in Spain.”
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