Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly to start at back of grid for Italian GP after penalty for excessive engine usage

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid as a result of a penalty for excessive engine usage.

The Dutchman will run Honda’s latest ‘Spec Four’ engine at Monza, which will take him over the permitted number of engine components for a season.

Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly will also run the engine with the same punishment.

Honda F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe said: “We believe they can still race strongly on Sunday.”

The Spec Four engine was run by the two teams’ other drivers, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, at the Belgian Grand Prix, although Albon reverted to a previous-spec engine for the race.

Tanabe added: “We gathered useful data in Spa, which we have used to make changes to power-unit settings and calibration in preparation for this race.

“We will try to maximise the potential of Spec Four and hope to get another positive result, maintaining the momentum we gained in Spa.”

Honda refused to reveal whether the drivers would use the engine throughout the weekend in Monza.

Verstappen spoke in Belgium about the likelihood of taking an engine penalty at Monza, and said he was unconcerned about it.

“I think it can be all right to overtake,” he said. “Even if you start from the back I don’t think it’s a big deal.

“We all know Ferrari is going to be really quick there, and if you start from the back you probably won’t catch the top four. Everything behind that I think it’s possible to catch up with.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the performance of the Spec Four engine was “encouraging”, adding: “Progress is definitely being made and [the engine] delivering what is expected.”

Red Bull have taken the engines at this stage because they want to ensure they are in the best possible position for Singapore, the race after Italy, which they expect to be one of their most competitive of the season.

Honda is also determined to have as strong a showing as possible at its home race in Japan in October.

Dolores Collins

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