MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - McLaren’s Fernando Alonso will collect a 35 place grid penalty for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix after Honda announced changes to his car’s power unit.
The penalty means the double world champion, whose future at McLaren remains uncertain due to the team’s continuing engine woes, will start at the back of the 20-car grid for the last European race of the season.
His chances were limited anyway at Monza’s ‘Temple of Speed’, the fastest circuit on the calendar where engine performance is crucial.
His Belgian team mate Stoffel Vandoorne suffered a similar fate when he was handed a 65-place penalty for his home race at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend.
Such meaningless penalties incurred through no fault of the driver have come increasingly under scrutiny in Formula One with some saying the system has got out of control and must change.
“I hate the fact that we’re having to affect the racing because of the technical issues,” Formula One managing director Ross Brawn, a title-winning former team principal and ex-Ferrari technical director, told motorsport.com.
”I know you can say if a car breaks down in a race that’s a technical issue and you’ve affected the race, but I think the fans understand that.
“For a fan to stomach that his hero is on the back of the grid because he had to change the engine, that’s not great sport,” added the Briton.
Brawn suggested a different form of penalty, or removing it altogether, but acknowledged that the sport might have to wait until 2021 when new engine regulations will come into force.
The current Formula One regulations stipulate that each driver may use no more than four power units during a championship season, with that number due to be reduced to three next year.
Each power unit is made up of six separate elements; the engine, the motor generator unit-kinetic (MGU-K), the motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H), the energy store, turbocharger and control electronics.
Grid penalties are imposed if a driver uses more than four of any one of the elements during the course of a season, and for successive breaches.
Honda said Alonso was now on his seventh engine and MGU-K, his ninth turbocharger and MGU-H, his sixth energy store and fifth control electronics.
Alonso retired from the Belgian Grand Prix but some components of the power unit used there will be run again in Friday’s second practice after Honda said they could find no obvious problem.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty