Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Sochi Autodrom, 2021

Verstappen expects “more difficult” recovery drive from back of grid after penalty

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen says it will be more difficult to race from the back of the grid to the front at Sochi this weekend than it was in 2018.

The Red Bull driver will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid. He collected a penalty after his team fitted a new power unit to his car, which meant Verstappen exceeded his maximum allocation of components.

Verstappen set the third-quickest time in the morning practice session behind the two Mercedes drivers. However he said the decision to take a power unit penalty at this race was not only a consequence of their performance compared to their championship rivals.

“It’s not only the results,” said Verstappen. “I said before that we’ll take everything into account also with the weather for tomorrow. We thought it would be best to take it here.”

Three years ago Verstappen finished fifth in the Russian Grand Prix after starting 19th due to a power unit penalty. He expects a more difficult recovery drive this weekend.

“In 2018 the gaps to the midfield were a bit bigger,” he said. “So naturally it will be a bit more difficult to come though.

“But we have to take the penalty anyway. If we wouldn’t have taken it here we would have taken it somewhere else. So we thought we’ll decide to do it here and we’ll try to make the best of it in the race.”

The team’s decision was also complicated by a forecast of heavy rain tomorrow, which could see qualifying postponed from Saturday to Sunday. However Verstappen said that did not have a significant bearing on their set-up direction for the race.

“We just tried to make the best possible racecar for this weekend once we decided to take that engine,” he said. “I hope of course it’s going to work out but tomorrow let’s first wait and see how the weather will be.”

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Keith Collantine
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20 comments on “Verstappen expects “more difficult” recovery drive from back of grid after penalty”

  1. will qualifying be a head to head with him & leclerc for who doesn’t start last? Or will he be last regardless because of grid penalty from Monza.

    If latter – surely incentive to save tyres and try an aggressive strategy…

    1. The Monza penalty will apply I believe so he would be last on the grid regardless.

    2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      24th September 2021, 15:24

      No qualifying or even grid penalties do not determine the order with these penalties.

      To my knowledge it is determined by the order in which the engine parts were changed, so if Leclerc engine was replaced before P1 while Max was after P1 Leclerc would be 19th on the grid.

      Anyone else now changing engine (outside allowed quantity) would start behind both Leclerc and Max, if people get grid penalties for safety etc they will still start ahead of Leclerc and Max.

      I am surprised that Red Bull didn’t choose to replace again an engine or parts just to have more engine parts available in the pool. My guess would be that budget cap would be a reason not to do that.

      1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
        24th September 2021, 15:31

        You can’t stock up on parts at one single event. Rule was amended after Spa 2016 where Lewis stocked up 3 new sets of all parts (or probably just ICEs).

    3. Regardless of where Verstappen qualifies, he will be back of the grid (3 place penalty and new PU after Le Clerc) as I would expect RBR would have taken new everything that where they are already on the maximum.

  2. So the regular backmarkers will get to experience Max crashing into them.

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      24th September 2021, 15:27

      This year Mercedes crashed more into Max than Max crashed into Mercedes or any other team.
      Based on steward rulings the score is 1-1 between Lewis and Max

      1. @jelle-van-der-meer Only because Hamilton has jumped out of the way for Verstappen 3 or 4 times.

        1. As he should, according to the steward’s decision in Monza.

    2. Similar to all his races in the past where he came from the back of the field all the way forward and hit every one off .. oh no.. he didnt hit any-one in 95-99% of the races..

    3. Monza was a racing incident 100%.
      Bomb defused.

  3. Seems like this will take a lot of pressure of Verstappen and put it all on Mercedes/Hamilton not to screw up. That kind of mental effect is not insignificant, especially given the conditions.

    1. *to not screw up

  4. Was the Mercedes/RBR/Ferrari versus rest gap bigger in 2018 than Mercedes/RBR – rest this season?
    2017-2021 have all been relatively equal in this regard.

    1. @jerejj Yeah I think it’s rather similar too. Just the teams have changed order somewhat. Back then it was probably a Williams going 5 seconds a lap slower and today a Haas. Maybe the midfield has closed up by a few tenths though.

  5. I guess they are counting on rain on Sunday. Skip qualifying completely as it’s useless and keer the car in one piece. Then if it rains on Sunday he will carve through the field and pick up places like nobody’s business.

  6. Depending on how qualifying goes this is potentially advantage Max. He doesn’t have to do more than trundle round in Q1 to put a respectable time on the board and then save the engine and the car.

    To state the obvious MB need to put their cars on the front row but that is not a given if done in the wet. But then also all the extra mileage to put wear and tear on the engines.

  7. I bet the hope is on a safety car at the right moment, but this could of course end badly too. Top 5 is surely possible. Let’s see if Perez helps him out.

    1. I am convinced the timing of the safety car will hugely benefit Lewis. Just wait for it..

  8. Leclerc with the new PU starting from the back as well and right in front of Max, doesn’t make it any easier.
    Max needs to clear Charles as quickly as possible, because the Ferrari was only slightly slower than the RB on the long runs (Max was about 0.3 per lap faster than Charles).
    Depending on how many SCs or VSCs there will be in the race, Max could either finish inside the Top 6 or even on the podium, if he gets a neatly timed SC.

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