Vandoorne hit with grid penalty following power loss in FP1

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team. Credit: McLaren Media Centre

McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Stoffel Vandoorne will serve a fifteen-place grid penalty at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, due to requiring an engine change after experiencing a loss of power during FP1.

The Woking based team had hoped their reliability woes could be over, after a successful day of trouble-free running during the final day of the recent in-season test in Bahrain, where the Belgian was able to complete 81 laps.

However, those PU gremlins returned during the final moments of the first practice session in Russia on Friday, when the Belgian reported a loss of power with just five minutes of running remaining.

Honda believe that the problem stems from the MGU-K, and because of the time constraints between now and this afternoon’s FP2 session, Honda have opted to do a complete engine change on Vandoorne’s car, rather than just swap out individual components.

Due to McLaren Honda’s difficult start to the season, Vandoorne has now gone passed the limit of four components to be used across the year, taking him to his fifth MGU-H and fifth turbocharger of 2017, which has brought about the rather large penalty.

Having implemented countermeasures following the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix, which appeared to have paid off during testing, Honda were confident they had gotten to the root of the problems they had been experiencing.

Indeed reports during FP1 indicated that the engine mapping update had worked, with the Honda engine sounding much better here than at previous rounds, and both drivers now able to take the corners much more smoothly, making today’s problems all the more disappointing.