The Russian Grand Prix was going to be a challenge for Red Bull and Max Verstappen as he entered the weekend with a 3-place grid penalty. That’s not an insurmountable setback but the bigger question was, knowing that Red Bull will need to introduce an all-new 4th engine due the damage they suffered during the British Grand Prix, would they take the opportunity to make that change in Sochi?
The answer is yes. The team, who have all the data at their fingertips, made the call feeling this would be the best of the remaining circuits to take the penalty. The teams are allowed three engines during the season and taking additional engines means instant grid penalty and starting at the back of the grid. Mercedes took this option for Valtteri Bottas in Italy.
“In 2018 (when Verstappen started 19th and finished fifth) the gaps to the midfield were bigger so I think it will be a bit more difficult to come through. We had to take a penalty anyway and if we hadn’t taken it here we’d have to take it somewhere else so we thought we’ll decide to do it here and try and make the best of it in the race.
“We just try to make the best possible race car for this weekend once we decided to take that engine. I hope of course it’s going to work out, but tomorrow, let’s first wait and see how the weather will be.”
If Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton do relatively well and win or score decent points, they will take the lead in the Driver’s championship and Max will have a lot of work to do for the balance of the season.
There was some suggestion that Mercedes would also possibly need to take a new 4th engine for Lewis Hamilton and while one might suggest they could take it in Sochi, they most likely would want to take the win and points lead because anything can happen and perhaps other circuits will favor them less and be a better option for them.
The act of taking penalties and where you take them all plays into he strategy of F1 and it is interesting to see this all unfold.