Already at the fourth race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Honda launches its first stage of engine upgrades. Dr. Helmut Marko curbs expectations – warns of penalties.
Will Honda finally give wings to Red Bull? The Japanese are bringing a brand new engine to Baku’s power circuit, therefore, launching their first significant upgrade already at the fourth race of the season.
One of the reasons: Daniil Kvyat’s Honda engine at Toro Rosso experienced some issues during quality control at the Chinese Grand Prix. For the demanding Baku course in terms of power and engine load, Honda doesn’t want to take any risks.
In addition to “improved stability and durability,” the Japanese also hope for “a slight performance advantage.” Red Bull Motorsport consultant Helmut Marko doesn’t expect a quantum leap, though. The Austrian to ABMS and F1 Insider: “The proclaimed 20 hp more is incorrect, it is less, but we can strain the engine longer, without getting reliability problems.”
However, there is a catch: The risk of penalties for Red Bull Honda pilots has increased as the season progresses. According to regulations, only three propulsion units per season may be used. Both Toro Rosso pilots have already reached that limit in Baku – at the fourth race out of 21.
Usually, the teams bring their first engine upgrades to the seventh Grand Prix of the year which is Canada this year. Hence, Honda steps out of line with this early upgrades but plans to come up with another upgrade in Canada as well as Dr. Marko confirms: “The next engine upgrade is planned for mid-year.”
It’s clear from their behavior, Red Bull and Honda are willingly accepting engine penalties in the future, in order to close the performance gap to the top teams. “If we use a few more engines at the end of the year but close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of power, am I am absolutely happy with it,” explains Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman continues: “I showed last year that you can stop on the podium from behind the grid, as in Austin for example, so that’s not a big problem.”
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.