Honda’s head of F1 project Yusuke Hasegawa has confirmed that McLaren driver Jenson Button will have to use a second internal combustion engine (ICE) during this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
The Briton reported unusual noises on his power unit in Bahrain, with Button ultimately forced into retirement on lap seven of the Sakhir race. Honda initially told F1i the root of the problem was unknown and sent the engine back to Japan for analysis.
F1 drivers are only allowed five entire power units across the 2016 season, though engine suppliers can fit older elements (ICE, MGU-H, MGU-K, turbine, etc.) on a new unit in a mix-and-match system.
“There was a mechanical issue on Jenson's ICE, which we will replace for the upcoming race weekend,” Hasegawa said. “The situation has been thoroughly investigated, and will be rectified in all future engines to be used.”
This is another setback for Honda, which already had to change Fernando Alonso’s power unit after his heavy Melbourne crash. The Japanese manufacturer still takes comfort from the progress shown by its package over the first two grands prix, though it remains braced for Shanghai International Circuit’s immense back straight.
“As we saw from Stoffel [Vandoorne]'s pace in Bahrain, we have surely come a long way since last year. We still need a bit more overall package performance to tackle the long, one-kilometre straight in Shanghai, but it’s reassuring to know that we’re heading in the right direction.”