Pierre Gasly says Toro Rosso’s race pace in the Japanese Grand Prix was hampered by a last-minute FIA reversal regarding the Honda power unit.
Honda was running its upgraded engine throughout the race weekend, but Gasly complained of an issue during qualifying that he felt cost him 0.3s of lap time. With Honda arguing the problem was also a reliability concern, it received FIA approval to make changes, as announced in the technical delegates report regarding parts being replaced under parc ferme conditions.
However, the FIA informed Honda on the grid ahead of the race that it would need to reverse the settings back to its qualifying specification — which Gasly says impacted his pace after slipping out of the points late on.
“In qualifying I had some calibration issues so I didn’t have the best setting and was hurting the reliability — hurting the power, but also the reliability — for the race,” Gasly said. “It was a pretty big concern ahead of the race so we ask them if we could change it. Then they first accepted and then after they reverted.
“I went back [to Saturday’s] setting which was a bit down on power and not ideal for drivability as well.”
Although Toro Rosso failed to pick up a point after qualifying both cars in the top seven, Gasly is encouraged that there is more performance available from the updated power unit.
“Honestly it’s looking quite promising because we are talking about a couple of tenths, so if you have this it probably would have put me a bit closer to Romain [Grosjean] and a bit more in the fight [for seventh], so it’s looking really good.
“There’s a few things to improve but as a first step we’re still discovering and exploring a bit the way the engine works, and there’s some good potential in there.
“I mean it’s new so of course we still need to find out how everything works. They introduced it pretty early. Ideally they would have liked more time on the dyno to test everything. I think it’s still good but we can still improve, compared to Spec 2; Spec 2 has less power but better drivability.”
Gasly’s teammate Brendon Hartley slipped from sixth on the grid to finish 13th in Japan, but attributes the race performance to overheating tires rather than an inability to match the one-lap pace.
“It’s massively positive, obviously it ran faultlessly on both cars,” Hartley said of the power unit update. “I think that’s encouraging. But other than that, there wasn’t too much to be positive about. The Spec 3 ran well and was reliable all weekend. That’s a really positive thing, but the actual race, from both cars, I think we’re disappointed.
“In qualifying we were definitely competitive. But in the race, with the tires, I think it looked like we didn’t do as good a job as some of the previous races, so that’s to be understood. But definitely qualifying, it’s the best qualifying Toro Rosso has had all season and in a long time in dry conditions, so definitely single lap performance was good.”