Honda’s head of F1 project Yusuke Hasegawa says the upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix “makes sense” for the Japanese constructor to introduce a new power unit upgrade, though it will incur grid penalties.
Honda still has three engine development tokens left for 2016, having used 18 last winter, two in Canada for a new spec of turbocharger, another couple at Silverstone to improve the fuel system, and seven in Belgium last month for a major evolution related to the combustion chamber and turbo.
With Honda unwilling to face a grid setback for its home race at Suzuka, Hasegawa has pinpointed Sepang, which hosts F1 one week before, as a logical venue to spend the final tokens.
“We introduced a new engine in Spa and at that moment we had nine races [left] so we need to introduce one more engine,” he said. “If you split the nine races it could be Malaysia or Japan or the USA.
“We do not want to introduce the new engine and get a penalty at Suzuka, so Malaysia makes sense.”
When pressed to confirm whether Honda was unsure about where to unleash the upgrade, Hasegawa added: “Actually, I have already decided but it is not the time to disclose it!”
However, it remains to be decided whether Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will both receive the evolution at the same time.
“This is also another discussion point for the team. I don’t want to get both cars behind from a race tactics and a constructors’ point of view. So we need to sort our tactics for the cars.”
While Honda is looking to further improve its internal combustion engine (ICE), Hasegawa admits the upgrade could focus on another area in light of the current feedback.
“We have three tokens left. Currently it is not very good on the dyno result, so I’m not sure we can introduce the new combustion. We will see.
“We may introduce [the upgrade] in a different area because once we change the combustion it will cost us so much setting time we do not want to put a lot of resource on it this year.
“The weight reduction or a tougher cylinder block or other area would give more power.”
Here is a recap of how many tokens each engine supplier has left at the moment: