Verstappen forced to last-minute engine change

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Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen will race with a fresh internal combustion engine after the team's Japanese engine supplier Honda detected a reliability problem on the Dutchman's engine overnight.

After the British Grand Prix, there were some concerns regarding Verstappen's power unit due to his heavy crash on the opening lap. The integration of power unit means that they are well protected in case of incidents, but the Dutchman's 51G crash had impact on several parts of his PU.

Honda sent the Silverstone crash power unit back to its Sakura factory and changed a few parts which is allowed by the Sporting Regulations. The Japenese engine manufacturer then installed the PU into the car of Verstappen for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix in order to give it a proper test on Friday. The analysis indicated that the engine works as normal, prompting Honda to give an all-clear to the unit.

However, following qualifying on Saturday, post running inspection uncovered a problem which forced Honda to swap Verstappen's engine for a fresh one.

A statement from Honda said: “During post-qualifying checks we noticed something on Max’s PU which might have developed over the course of the weekend, likely to be an after-effect of the Silverstone crash.

“We have therefore changed it for a new PU of the same specification. According to the regulations, Max is allowed to start from his third position on the grid with no penalty incurred," read a statement from Honda.

Verstappen first used his second engine that powered his RB16B during his high-speed clash at Silverstone at the French Grand Prix, meaning that it was a relatively fresh engine that completed a race less than the second PU of his championship rival Lewis Hamilton. With 12 races left after the Hungarian Grand Prix, it is highly unlike that the Dutchman will be able to complete 12 races with a single power unit.

The installation of a fourth internal combustion engine would result in a grid-drop penalty, which would, of course, have a massive implication on the championship fight, giving Hamilton an opportunity to gain a significant amount of points on Verstappen. The Hasselt-born could theoretically receive a fourth engine in Monza, where the Sprint Qualifying format will be in use, giving him the sprint race and the grand prix to fight his way up the order.