Verstappen to start from the back in Russia after Red Bull take new engine

The championship leader will take a penalty for using a new engine this weekend

Friday, 24th September 2021, 4:15 pm

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after taking an engine penalty for the Russian Grand Prix

It is advantage Lewis Hamilton heading into Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix after Red Bull opted to change Max Verstappen’s engine, meaning he will start from the back of the grid in Sochi.

The Dutchman leads the championship by five points heading into the race, but would have served a three-place penalty after crashing into the reigning champion at the last race in Italy which eliminated them both.

Knowing they would need to take a new engine at some stage outside of their allotted three for the season, Red Bull decided to take the hit in Sochi.

Mercedes looked the team to beat in Friday’s two free practice sessions, with Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton, with Verstappen’s fastest time good enough for sixth overall.

“We thought it would be best to take the engine penalty here in Russia, we took everything into account before making the decision,” said the Dutchman. “We had to take the penalty at some point so if we didn’t take it here, we would have taken it somewhere else.

“As for the set up, we are trying to make the best possible race car for this weekend despite starting from the back of the grid. I hope it’s going to work out and we will try to make the best of it during the race on Sunday, for now let’s wait and see what the weather will be like tomorrow.”

Team-mate Sergio Perez was ninth and 11th respectively in Friday’s sessions, completing 44 laps in total, which he believes will be vital ahead of Sunday’s race, with Saturday expected to be wet.

He said: “I think we have some good information going into qualifying tomorrow, when there won’t be much running due to the rain, so today was probably the last chance we have to test the dry conditions before qualifying. I think there is potential in the car for this weekend, we just have to make sure we get it right.

“With Max starting from the back, it is going to be a bit of a challenge as a team and obviously Mercedes are very strong around here but hopefully we are able to put some pressure on them and qualify very close to them, that would be ideal.”