After a second engine change in the third race, Verstappen sees little chance for Sochi on podium.
Max Verstappen enters the Russian Grand Prix with a handicap. The Red Bull driver will be moved back five places on the grid because he will receive a new Honda engine. “So that means sixth place,” says the 21-year-old. He expects little chance of a podium finish in Sochi.
“That’s no joke! It’s okay, last year I started from the very back, overtaking wasn’t a big problem either,” recalls Verstappen. In 2018 he drove from 19th to 5th. “The midfield teams are probably a little more competitive this year, but that should work out.” says the confident Dutchman.
Not expecting to reach pole position in qualifying anyway, the penalty is bearable.
“You probably lose a little time on the front guys, but realistically we would have qualified in fourth or fifth place anyway. That doesn’t change much.”
The second penalty change in three races – in Monza he went to the back to the grid, but for Russia, the tactic is considered ok – Honda has chosen this tactical move to have fresh Spec 4 engines at the upcoming Suzuka home race in a bid to win in Japan.
“I like new engines, they look nicer. When I no longer need them, I take them home with me,” Verstappen jokes about the necessity of the change. “I don’t think that will hurt us, there are only five places. That’s why we decided to do it.”
Team mate Alex Albon and the Toro Rosso drivers will also receive a new engine in Russia.
Last weekend in Singapore the team was able to do surprisingly little against Ferrari. Verstappen made it to the podium, but for the first time since 2010 no Red Bull driver in the top 2 finished the night race. The Dutchman has already noticed that the team can probably longer claim they have the best chassis.
In qualifying, six tenths of a second were missing on Leclerc’s pole, and in the race strategic luck also helped to get on the podium in front of the two Mercedes drivers. The expectations were by no means fulfilled. One week after the “damage limitation” at Monza, Red Bull considered Singapore a “wake-up call”.
“In contrast to previous years, we took a different direction, which didn’t work.” Even before the race, Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko revealed that a simulator problem was probably responsible for the disappointing performance in practice.
“We could probably have done a better job with the simulator. But it has helped us so often that it can happen that it doesn’t work out on a weekend.” confirmed Verstappen.
It is thought that the Red Bull had been set up too stiff and with less than ideal levels of downforce, the Milton Keynes simulator’s suggested setup failing in the real world.
“Unfortunately this had to happen in Singapore of all places, but we’ll take a look at it all and see if we can improve it for next year.” concludes Max.
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