Having used two of their remaining three engine development tokens for the season to create the latest specification of their RA616H power unit, Honda elected to give it to Alonso here so that he won’t have to get the penalty at the Japanese firm’s home race in Suzuka next weekend.
“For me, qualifying is going to be pretty short because of my penalties,” said Alonso, whose grid drop guarantees he will start Sunday’s race from the back of the field. “I’ll do a lap to set a time within 107 percent and then I’ll watch it on TV. Then we’ll try to save as many sets of new tyres as possible.”
Though Alonso will not qualify or race with the new power unit at Sepang, Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa was pleased with the information accrued from practice, which saw the Spaniard end the day seventh fastest.
“Both sessions ran very smoothly, and we were able to gather track running data that we cannot test on the dyno,” he commented. “We will now focus on analysing the data thoroughly to prepare the power unit for future race use.
“The updates are focused on increasing the durability while decreasing overall weight of the surrounding parts around the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). This consequently helps performance, but does not lead to an outright increase.”
Alonso’s engine penalties total 30 grid places, thanks to him using his eighth ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H of the season, and his seventh MGU-K, Energy Store and Control Electronics. Nevertheless, the two-time world champion wasn’t writing off his race chances.
“The weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday could be rainy - we still don’t know if quali or the race will be affected - so starting from behind might not be too bad for us,” he added.
Alonso’s team mate Jenson Button, celebrating his 300th Grand Prix this weekend, is not running the revised power unit in Malaysia.