Pierre Gasly is pinning Toro Rosso’s hopes of reclaiming eighth place in the 2018 constructors’ championship from Sauber on Honda’s upgraded Formula 1 engine.

Toro Rosso is set to return to using Honda’s spec-three power unit at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix after opting not to run the Japanese manufacturer’s latest engine offering in Mexico due to unusually-high altitude levels.

Despite using an older engine and incurring a back-of-the-grid start, Gasly recovered to finish 10th in Mexico City, though Toro Rosso fell behind Sauber in the constructors’ standings after the Swiss squad recorded its second double points finish of the season.

Gasly fears Toro Rosso could now struggle to overhaul Sauber in the remaining two rounds as it looks to earn back the position and the added prize money that comes with it.

“I think there are a lot of positives out of the weekend. I should not take any penalty, which is going to be really good because the last few races have been tough,” he said.

“Always starting from the back of the grid put us in a difficult situation to score points, and now we come to two crucial races for us, with a team, for eighth place, fighting with Sauber.

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“There are only three points, but three expensive points ahead of next year which will have an impact on the development of the car for next year, so really need to maximise our chances and that’s what we’re doing at the moment.

“A new spec, we have the aero upgrade on the car as well, so we should be in a pretty good position to try to defend ourselves in the best way possible.”

Gasly said he is surprised Sauber has not scored more points given the strength of the team’s package as the season has progressed.

“In a way, I’m surprised that they didn’t score more points because for quite a while, they were quite consistently in Q3,” he explained.

“I’m sure the fact they are working with Ferrari as well helped a lot the development and came with a lot of upgrades every weekend.

“The car pace has been a lot stronger than it used to be at the beginning of the year. They are clearly really competitive, and it’s not going to be easy at all to catch them in the championship.

“But we kind of knew it would come at some point, because based on the performance and the pace they showed since the beginning of the season, we knew it would be difficult to keep them behind.”

When asked which track out of Brazil or Abu Dhabi would suit Toro Rosso’s car better compared to Sauber, Gasly replied: “It’s difficult to really pick one out of the two.

“We know Brazil is quite power-sensitive with a big uphill, long straights, so even if we did a big step with Honda, I think the Ferrari power unit is objectively faster than ours.

“But I think with the upgrades, we’ve managed to put our car in a good window. We can be competitive, and they are competitive as well. They scored points with both cars in Mexico, and showed a great package, so I expect it to be a really close fight.”