Max Verstappen to start at back of Russian Grand Prix grid

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Audio and text commentary of the Russian Grand Prix is live on the BBC Sport website

Red Bull's Max Verstappen will start Sunday's Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid as a result of a penalty for using too many engines.

Red Bull needed to take a fourth engine - one more than permitted for a season.

They decided to do so in Russia after he was given a three-place grid penalty for his part in his crash with title rival Lewis Hamilton at the last race.

Valtteri Bottas led Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two in second practice at Sochi.

Bottas was 0.044 seconds quicker than Hamilton, ahead of Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly, McLaren's Lando Norris, Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Verstappen.

Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi had a crash at Turn Nine, bringing out the red flag, and late in the session Gasly took off his front wing when he ran over the kerbs at Turn Two.

Verstappen's grid penalty gives Hamilton and Mercedes a golden opportunity to gain ground in the championship - the Dutchman is five points ahead of Hamilton heading into this weekend.

Hamilton said: "It doesn't really change anything for us. We just have to do our thing and focus on moving forwards.

"It's a tough year for everyone with reliability. It's definitely a shame for him and we've got to try and capitalise on that and get a maximum result, a one-two would be spectacular for us as a team."

The seven-time champion said he was happy with progress on the first day's running.

"Seems like we started off on the right foot. The first run in the first session was the best and we have been migrating and adjusting since and it's not been as good as that one.

"But generally a good session pace-wise. We have some work to do on the long run and tomorrow will be raining a lot."

Verstappen said the decision to take the new engine this weekend was made "taking everything into account, also with the weather for tomorrow. We thought it would be best to take it here.

"We had to take the penalty anyway and if we didn't take it here it would be somewhere else - we will try to make the best of it in the race."

Persistent rain is expected on Saturday and governing body the FIA is preparing contingency plans in readiness for a potential delay in qualifying.

If it cannot be run at some point on Saturday afternoon, it will be held on Sunday morning before the race.

Verstappen will start at the back alongside Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who also has a new engine fitted this weekend and has also exceeded his allocation.

In Verstappen's case, he needed another engine because he lost one in his heavy crash at the British Grand Prix following his first-lap collision with Hamilton.

Leclerc was running short of parts after he was taken out by Lance Stroll's Aston Martin in the first-corner pile-up at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ferrari have a new, upgraded hybrid system ready for the first time this weekend and took the opportunity to replace fit it straight away with a new engine because of Leclerc's predicament.

Team-mate Carlos Sainz will have the new hybrid system at a later point this season when Ferrari decide it makes tactical sense.

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