Risk of rain at Sochi a factor in Verstappen’s engine penalty decision

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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The possibility of rain during the Russian Grand Prix may complicate Red Bull’s decision whether to replace Max Verstappen’s power unit.

Verstappen’s second Honda RA621H power unit was damaged when he crashed in the British Grand Prix following contact with Lewis Hamilton. The team ran the unit at the Hungaroring but concluded it was too damaged to race without further repairs.

Red Bull may therefore need to exceed the maximum allowed number of power unit components on Verstappen’s car, which will trigger an automatic penalty. This weekend’s race is thought to provide a good opportunity, as the Sochi circuit has several straights where overtaking is possible and Verstappen’s starting position is already compromised by the three-place grid penalty he incurred at Monza.

However the forecast of rain during the weekend may complicate that decision. Heavy rain is forecast for much of Saturday, and the variable of a wet qualifying session could increase Verstappen’s chances of claiming a grid position ahead of the Mercedes drivers at a track where they are historically strong. If race day looks likely to be wet, the team may prefer to avoid the added risk of starting near the back where visibility will be poor.

“This is, of course, what we have to take in consideration,” Verstappen admitted on Thursday in Sochi. “But I also think in general we just have to wait and see how competitive we are,” he added. That’s why I don’t know at the moment what we are going to do.”

Several senior figures at Red Bull will have input into the decision, said Vettel. “Everyone needs to, of course, agree to it,” he said. “But of course, I can also have my opinion about it.”

Two drivers from the top two teams have already exceeded their allocation of power unit parts. Sergio Perez did at the Dutch Grand Prix and Valtteri Bottas did the same at Monza. Both had to start the race from the back of the grid.

At present Mercedes have not indicated Lewis Hamilton will need to do the same.

“As far as I’m aware right now, I think we are okay,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “However, there is a long way to go.

“At the moment we have no plans to put in a new engine. I hope that stays the same, but obviously I can’t predict the future.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Risk of rain at Sochi a factor in Verstappen’s engine penalty decision”

  1. Wasn’t this a foregone conclusion after drawing the penalty last race?

    1. @leejo Initially, yes, until rain forecasts came.

  2. On pure merit, VER should be at least 60 points clear in the WDC standings. I look forward to his maiden title as he bring it home in 2021!

    1. on what pure merit ..no such thing as pure merit in F1..ITS motor racing and he is only 5 points in WDC and i can tell you here now that by end of Sunday Hamilton will be leading this WDC .

      1. That championship lead is meaningless, it’s like rosberg in 2016, hamilton was clearly the better driver, like verstappen was clearly the better driver here, when one loses 50 points through bad luck and yet comes at a few points from the title, it’s not a deserving champion (also goes for rosberg in 2016 since malaysia was one of many issues for hamilton).

        1. But Rosberg STILL won! People opinions take nothing away fromv that. G1, and sport in general, is all about winning. Whoever wins over the course of a season deserves it!

  3. Said Vettel?

    1. I didn’t even pick it up as a typo initially.
      I thought they asked Vettel based on his previous experience within the RBR organisation, and also the last part – “But of course, I can also have my opinion about it.” – is very Vettelesque ;)

      1. Well vetted is consider very wise :)

        1. And there we go, even when I try to make a joke about a typo, I make a typo. Please insert Vettel above.

          PS> I must say, I don’t know why but I easily make a lot of typos with Racefans format, much more than any other format.

          1. The authors make many typos also 😒

  4. If things look as bad as forecast, there’s a fair chance we could get another “spa” with a few laps behind the safety car only.

    I imagine a heap of teams might be evaluating whether or not to take an engine change penalty as essentially a free change by doing it in what turns out to be a non race. That gives them a chance to add one to their rota with an minimal impact given the penalty will be pretty much nullified by at best 1/2 points.

    1. Forecast I have says heavy rain on Saturday, light rain on Sunday. Dull and dreary in other words – and the weather won’t be much better. A fitting swansong for Sochi…

      1. @mrfill, Next season’s race will be the swansong, but light rain is okay for racing.

  5. With the weather report out, and the Spa situation in mind. The leader of FP2 could get pole and win the race.
    Saturday looks like a completely washout and then sunday most probably aswell, in this new normality of F1.

  6. So? More or less likely with engine change if rain?

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