The Honda F1 section plans to introduce the first upgraded version of their engine in the 2019 Formula 1 season, during the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend. This comes following the discovery of a problem with quality control.
The Red Bull cars of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, as well as the two Toro Rosso F1 cars will run on a new combustion engine in the Baku race on Sunday, April 28.
Honda describes the main benefits of the upgraded V6 engine as it having “improved durability, life and better reliability”, as well as “a slight improvement in performance”.
Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon, the Toro Rosso drivers, have just recently moved onto their second engines for this season in China Grand Prix, Kvyat because he had a problem after the first practice session, and Albon because of a heavy crash during his final practice.
The investigation into Kvyat’s problem ended with a conclusion that the reason was a “quality control issue”.
This is “one of the reasons” why the new ‘Spec 2’ engine goes to all four cars for Baku, the fourth race in the currently running.
These changes put both Kvyat and Albon on the verge of penalties, as the next new component could call for a grid drop.
Drivers can change three combustion engines, turbos and MGU-Hs during one season, and two MGU-K, energy store and control electronics within a season.
Red Bull and Toro Rosso might need to exceed these limits and receive penalties, because Honda continues to develop as it wants to keep up with Mercedes and Ferrari.
Changing to the second set of components already before the fourth race practically guarantees that Verstappen and Gasly are going to need a fourth engine at least, sooner than later.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes usually like to wait until the seventh race, the Canadian Grand Prix, to make their first upgrade in a season.
The Baku race is a high-speed circuit, which stresses the combustion engine a lot, as well as the energy recovery turbocharger systems and power units.
This might be one of the reasons why Honda introduced a reliability-based upgrade, somewhat earlier than usually.