Honda has brought forward the introduction of the second specification of its 2019 Formula One engine to this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix
The decision was made after a quality control issue was discovered as the reason for a problem on Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso at the Chinese Grand Prix. The Spec-2 Honda engine promises “improved durability and life and better reliability” as well as “a slight improvement in performance” and will be fitted to both Red Bulls and both Toro Rossos in Baku.
Under Formula One’s sporting regulations, drivers are limited to just three engines per season before receiving a grid penalty. As a result, teams usually wait until round seven of 21 — the Canadian Grand Prix — before bringing the first major update. The early change for Honda increases the likelihood that Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly will exceed their quota of three engines for the season and take a grid penalty later in the year.
The Toro Rosso drivers already looked set for penalties after both moved onto their second power unit for the year at the last round in China. Kvyat’s was due to the problem mentioned above and Alex Albon was given a new engine after his car was involved in a 49G impact with the barriers in final practice.
Previous spec power units can still be used once a new engine has been introduced, but the reliability concerns raised in China means Honda may just limit use of its remaining Spec-1 engines to Friday practice.
Honda has struggled with reliability since returning to F1 in 2015, but appears to have made a solid step in performance this year. For the first time since its return, it is supplying two teams this season — Toro Rosso and Red Bull — after three unsuccessful years with McLaren between 2015 and 2017 and a year supplying only Toro Rosso in 2018.
The Japanese brand secured its first podium since 2008 at this year’s Australian Grand Prix when Verstappen finished third ahead for Red Bull of the two Ferraris.