Toro Rosso looks set for 'guinea pig' penalties

Scuderia Toro Rosso mechanics replace the front suspension on Pierre Gasly's STR13
© XPB 

It looks as though Toro Rosso's 2018 campaign could be essentially over, with Red Bull apparently approving a plan to use their junior squad as a test and development operation for the rest of the season.

After 12 years with Renault, Red Bull are to follow Toro Rosso in using Honda engines next season. That means any progress that the Japanese manufacturer can make this year will directly help the senior squad in 2019.

"Of course we leave the decision to Honda," Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko told Auto Motor und Sport this week.

"But if they find a tenth with the development, of course, they can try the upgrade in the race," he added. "Even if that means we're taking penalties for it."

Brendon Hartley is already on his fifth internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H. Penalties have seen him start from the back row in France and Austria, and he had been due to start even further back - from pit lane - in Britain.

Gasly is already on his fourth set of components. Introducing more upgrades on the cars will end up incurring further hefty grid penalties that will severely compromise the two drivers chances of scoring championship points.

Toro Rosso has failed to score a single point since Monaco, and slipped to eighth in the constructors championship standings as a result.

The team itself admitted that it was struggling to get to grips with the latest Honda power unit upgrade that was introduced in time for the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

Gasly described Honda's one-second-per-lap deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari at Silverstone as "crazy".

"We still have to understand exactly how to get the best out of the Spec 2 engine," he said.

"It's more in terms of just pure performance and power from the engine," he said. "I know they are working on it and they have a couple of ideas.

"I just need to give them time to bring it to the track. But at the moment we still lose quite a lot in terms of straightline speed."

Honda's F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe told Autosport magazine that they were working on improvements to the ICE.

"I hope we will have some update and improvement within this season," he promised.

Tanabe added that they were still looking into the reason why Hartley was unable to take the start at Silverstone and whether more PU changes - and more penalties - are on the way for the Kiwi in Hockenheim.

"While fixing the car we had an issue with the installation on the power unit side that caused an improper function," he said.

"We saw unusual data on the power unit side and we retired," he noted. "I think the components are okay, we will check carefully for any damage."

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