Max Verstappen says the weather forecast played a part in Red Bull’s decision to take an engine penalty and start at the back of the grid in the Russian Grand Prix.
Saturday is expected to be extremely wet in Sochi, with the FIA moving a Formula 3 race forward to Friday evening to try and run as much of the weekend as possible. Given the potential for a mixed-up grid, and with a three-place grid penalty already handed out for the collision with Lewis Hamilton in Monza, Verstappen will now take a new power unit and start the race at the back of the field.
“It’s not only the results — I said it before that we would take everything into account, also with the weather for tomorrow, so we thought it would be best to take it here,” Verstappen said after seeing Mercedes dominate Friday.
“Of course in 2018 the gaps to the midfield were a bit bigger so naturally I think it will be a bit more difficult to come through, but we had to take the penalty anyway. If we wouldn’t have taken it here we would have taken it somewhere else. So we thought OK, now we’ll decide to do it here and we’ll try to make the best of it in the race.”
While the weather forecast was taken into account in terms of the penalty, Verstappen says it isn’t something that has been influencing Red Bull’s setup direction so far.
“I mean, we just try to make the best possible race car for this weekend once we decided to take that engine. So I hope of course that it’s going to work out but let’s first wait and see how the weather will be.”
Verstappen’s penalty leaves Sergio Perez as Red Bull’s main hope of disrupting Mercedes at the front, but after finishing FP2 in 11th place the Mexican admits he has work to do overnight.
“I think we have good information going on to tomorrow, when there won’t probably be much running, so this was the last time we had to practice in dry conditions, before qualifying,” Perez said. “I think there’s some potential in the car, we just have to make sure we get it right. I think my Sector 1 and Sector 2 look good, but in Sector 3 I did struggle a bit, so there are some interesting bits to look at.
“It’s going to be a bit of a challenge. Obviously (Mercedes) are very, very strong around here, but, hopefully, we’re able to give them some pressure, qualify very close to them — that would be ideal.”