Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were both probably expecting a bit more from the opening race weekend of the 2018 F1 season. After very promising signs in pre-season testing, Honda looked to have resolved the fatal flaws that have followed it in the past three years. But in the session that counts the most, Toro Rosso-Honda has revealed that there is still a mountain to climb, and it could be a long season.
Gasly retired from the Australian Grand Prix early on with an MGH-H failure, meaning that for the remaining 20 races he will have to try and make his two remaining power units last, and take the grid penalties when this allocation is used up. As Gasly’s comments suggest, the nature of this tight restriction will creep into how the team approaches the next few races. He said:
“For sure I’m not going to lie, it’s a pain in the ass to have it but that’s how it is and everyone will try to just make it as smooth as possible for the next races. I think the regulation is tough for everyone. Testing went well with no issues at all so it was looking very good, so it’s just a shame that we faced it now.
“I would rather have it on the last day of testing and then come here with no issues. For sure it’s not going to be easy, it means probably at some point we will have a penalty but I don’t really want to think about it now. I just want to think about the next race and have a good weekend.”
“We knew that it was the sort of situation we could face but of course after the testing we were optimistic. I think we should stay optimistic about the season because it’s not that because we’ve had one issue now we’re going to have one every race weekend.”
It is still early days and Honda could still improve. If the team goes beyond the limit of three power units, the shackles could come off and less conservative updates could be given to the car. It’s doubtful that a company with no budgetary limits and is rumoured to have made something close to a nine-figure investment in its power units will think about avoiding penalties when the time arises. It seems likely that Honda could develop aggressively if it goes beyond three power units. That will not only highlight how farcical the limit is, but that this supposedly cost-effective restriction on engines and frustrating penalty system is all for nothing.