Alonso has already used 10 internal combustion engines as Honda have struggled develop their new technology in the first 16 races of the season, and he is scheduled to use an 11th here after the technical problem that dropped him from a battling fifth place in the closing stages of last Sunday’s United States race.
That will mean a drop of 10 grid places, but the Spaniard could also get an extra five for a gearbox change, too. As a result he faces a potential penalty of at least 15 places on the starting grid.
Button, meanwhile, was due to get 10 penalty places anyway because he will run the latest, Specification 4, Honda power unit here which Alonso debuted in Austin, but he will receive another 10 because he will have yet another new engine fitted on Friday evening ready for qualifying and the race. This strategic move will give the British driver a larger pool of engines to draw from for the final two rounds Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
In addition, the replacement of other power unit components, such as the turbo, MGU-H and MGU-K, on Button’s car in Mexico means his total grid penalties are set to ramp up to a possible 50 places or more.
Even without the penalties, McLaren were already expecting a tough race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a fast circuit unlikely to suit the MP4-30. Plus, the track’s location at more than 2,200m above sea level will only compound the Honda unit’s power issues.
“The altitude is easily the highest we have to deal with at any Grand Prix on the calendar, so that in itself will be something new for all the teams to work with,” commented Button. “And the fact this circuit has the second highest top speed after Monza will mean it won’t be easy for us.
“Saying that, having good balance and downforce in the car will be crucial so we’ll get stuck in with set-up and see how we fare on Friday morning.”
Button finished sixth last time out in Texas, his best result of the season. It means he is now five points ahead of Alonso in the standings, in 16th place with his team mate 17th.