SEPANG, Malaysia -- Fernando Alonso has shrugged off the 30-place grid penalty he faces at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, saying it was always going to happen at some point before the end of the season.
Alonso is running Honda's updated engine during Friday practice this weekend, but will switch back to the old-spec power unit for the race. In doing so he will incur a 30-place grid penalty for changing the internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics, but will be able to race his Friday engine for the first time without a penalty at Honda's home race in Japan.
"We knew we had a plan from the middle of the season of where to introduce new engines," Alonso said. "I lost one in Australia in the accident, and we were on engine number two in the second race. We had some further problems.
"So we knew these penalties would come, and one of the best places was Spa because of the conditions of our engines at that point. The second best was maybe Malaysia because the weather could play a big factor in the race, and also Japan is the next race, our home grand prix, and we want to arrive there with some safety in terms of reliability.
"We're ready to take the penalty. In Spa, starting last, I was fourth or fifth after many incidents, so you never know. We will start the weekend and the race optimistic about the chance of being in the points, and that's the target for both cars, even if I start last then hopefully we can recover places quite soon."
Alonso caused controversy a year ago when he referred to his Honda power unit as a GP2 engine over team radio at the Japanese Grand Prix. He believes the quote was blown out of proportion by the media but also praised the step forward Honda has made in the last 12 months.
"Yeah, my radio messages first of all are quite interesting all the time. I've heard many radio drivers from other drivers, world champion drivers, and they don't have that impact, so it means I'm more funny, or something like that, which is good.
"I think we change a lot from last year. The engine last year was not ready to compete. I said from the beginning of the year, in all the interviews, our boss from Honda was saying the project was immature and we were learning a lot of things, and in the process to improve the engine.
"So I was not saying anything differently. This year we are all saying the same thing, which is we've made a lot of progress, we are happy with the direction we are going and we are able to compete with all the other teams."