Ferrari will run an upgraded power unit at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend after bringing a planned update forward by two races.
After a promising performance in pre-season testing, the Italian team has made a disappointing start to the year at the first four races, allowing rivals Mercedes to take four straight one-two victories. The results have left Ferrari 74 points adrift in the constructors' championship while Sebastian Vettel is 35 shy of championship leader Valtteri Bottas in the drivers' standings.
The team brought an aerodynamic upgrade to the last round in Baku and now plans to double down in Spain with further bodywork upgrades and its first engine upgrade of the year.
"It's time for the Spanish GP, traditionally a race where most of the teams bring some updates, therefore we can expect to see a step up in performance from our competitors," team principal Mattia Binotto said. "We are currently behind in the championship and we have to catch up, which we know means that our development work will be the key to this season. Having brought a new aerodynamic package to Baku, we will also bring some developments in this area to Barcelona.
"On top of that, we will have a new power unit that we are introducing ahead of schedule, as the second specification was due to be brought to Canada. Shell, in close collaboration with our team, has developed a different formulation of race lubricant that will also be introduced with the new power unit, delivering increased performance.
"It's only down to a big team effort with everyone pushing hard to make up ground that we have been able to bring these developments forward."
Each driver is allowed to use just three engines per season, meaning teams usually space their upgrades across the season. Canada, being the seventh race of 21 and a power-sensitive circuit, has traditionally been the target for engine upgrades and the decision to go earlier -- for performance rather than reliability reasons -- is a signal of intent from Ferrari and proof of how important a victory in Spain would be to the team.
Ferrari will be able to continue using its original specification of engine during Friday practice, meaning it can still balance the mileage across its engine allocation for the year. What's more, Monaco is not a very power sensitive circuit, so the team could still use its original specification engine there to save mileage on the new power unit.
Engine performance has already been a strong point of the Ferrari package, with the car showing race-winning potential in both Bahrain and Baku. Those circuits have long straights and in qualifying at those two circuits the Ferrari had a significant straight-line speed advantage over Mercedes.
Honda brought its first engine upgrade of the year forward to the last race in Baku, but did so after a problem on Daniil Kvyat's car in China raised reliability concerns. It was also in line with Red Bull and Toro Rosso's plans to accept that they would need to exceed their engine quota for the year and take a grid penalty at a later round.