Honda have invested their four remaining 2015 engine development tokens on upgrading the engine’s combustion chambers, the turbocharger and the MGU-H, the latter two in particular being acknowledged as weak areas. The penalties - initially 25 grid places, but then upped to 35 after further component changes - have been incurred because Alonso had already used nine ICEs, eight turbos, eight MGU-Hs and six control electronics systems this year.
“During FP1, we applied our new spec-four ICE to Fernando's car, and confirmed the fundamental performance of the engine on the track," said Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer, chief officer of motorsport. "Unfortunately, the session was cut short to 60 minutes, so we had less time than we would have liked, but we were able to get good feedback from the engine for the races to come."
There were insufficient parts to update Jenson Button’s car too for Sochi, and he may have to take the pain of upgrade penalties in the United States. Nevertheless, the former champion said he was feeling positive about the team’s prospects for 2016.
“There are a lot of good things to come over the winter, and you can definitely make good strides then,” commented Button. “Look at Ferrari: they are said to have found 100 bhp last winter and to have achieved better deployment, and look at them this season.”
Honda are expected to change the architecture of their engine this winter, to facilitate a more efficient and effective installation of the turbo and ERS systems.
“I have no idea whether we can win a race next year,” Button continued. “It would be a big step forward if we could, but you have to remember that our technical package is still very young. The power is actually very strong for a manufacturer in their first year.
“And the car’s aerodynamic philosophy was brand new to us at the beginning of the year, so there might be massive gains to be made for 2016. We might win the first race, but that’s unlikely. But we can make a big step.
“I don’t want to put a position on it, because we don’t know what the others can do, but I am much happier about the future of this team. It excites me.”
Alonso is not the only driver to receive grid penalties in Russia. Marussia's Roberto Merhi takes a 20-place drop thanks to unscheduled ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H changes.