This weekend’s Russian Grand Prix will see all four Honda powered cars being hit with grid penalties. This means that Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Alex Albon along with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly will all be taking a trip further back down the grid irrespective of where they place on Saturday after qualifying - Daniil Kvyat will start from the back. The reason for this is that all Honda powered cars will be fitted with new internal combustion engines…but not for the reason you may think.
So, what has prompted this unilateral move by Honda? It all comes down to the race after Sochi because after Russia the F1 circus will then be heading to Japan.
Suzuka is a legendary circuit and the form that Toro Rosso and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing are showing – with a Honda engine – places a greater expectation on the team for their 2019 home race. Last year in Suzuka, Honda only had engines in the Toro Rosso and with both cars finishing outside of the points on race day (Gasly 11th & Hartley 13th) this was a race weekend for the Japanese engine giants to forget.
This year, due to the fact that Red Bull is sat 3rd in the Constructors’ table on 289 points and Toro Rosso is placed 6th on 55 points whilst breathing down the neck of Renault who is just 12 points better off than them in 5th – expectation is high!
As such, for the Japanese Grand Prix, Honda want to ensure that their cars are in the best position possible even if that hinders their performance this weekend in Russia.
The consequences of Honda’s decision will be as follows:
- Max Verstappen (Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda) 5 place grid drop
- Alexander Albon (Scuderia Toro Ross Honda) 5 place grid drop
- Pierre Gasly (Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda) 5 place grid drop
- Daniil Kvyat (Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda) moved to the back of the grid for the race.
Whilst Verstappen, Albon and Gasly have to cope with a standard 5 place drop, the punishment for Daniil Kvyat is more severe due to the fact that five of the six key parts of his power unit are being replaced. The only remaining component on Kvyat’s STR14 is the battery seeing how the internal combustion engine, turbo, console electronics and both the MGU-K and MGU-H hybrid components will all be replaced and Kvyat has already exceeded engine changes in the season – hence starting at the back on Sunday. This may allow the Russian a chance to take a bold strategy approach but first Kvyat has his own home race to focus on.
Time will tell as to whether Honda's decision is wise or not but what it does show is that the Japanese engine manufacturer is back and with numerous placings on the podium in 2019 including twice on the top step (Austria and Germany) – Honda is once again an engine giant to take seriously and not underestimate.
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