Verstappen on Sochi penalty, ‘nothing is lost’

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen leaves the garage. Italy September 2021

Max Verstappen pulling out of the Red Bull garage, half the car showing, with soft red Pirelli tyres on the car. Italy September 2021

Heading to Russia with a three-place grid penalty, Max Verstappen says “nothing is lost” and that he will try to make the “most” of the weekend.

Blamed by the stewards for the mid-race crash that put both he and Lewis Hamilton into the gravel and out of the Italian Grand Prix, Verstappen was hit with a three-place grid penalty for the next race, Sochi.

Even if the Red Bull driver manages to pull off pole position at what has been a Mercedes-dominated track, he’ll be starting from the second row of the grid.

That potentially leaves Hamilton with an open goal to take the win and regain the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

Verstappen, who holds a slender five-point advantage over his title rival, insists all is not lost.

“The penalty is of course not ideal but nothing is lost,” he said, “that’s how I look at it.

“As for the Drivers’ Championship, we still have a lot of races ahead of us and it’s a very tiny margin.

“We will try and make the most from the weekend and work with the package we have.”

As for his collision with Hamilton at Monza, their second big crash of this season, Verstappen still feels it was a “racing incident” but that his punishment is what it is.

“I think you can reflect all you like,” he said, “but it’s important to look forward and keep pushing.

“I still believe it was a racing incident, but we have been given a three-place grid penalty and we just have to work with it now.

“The race in Monza definitely wasn’t our day for many reasons, but now I just plan to look forward to Sochi.”

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Red Bull have yet to take a win at the Sochi Autodrom, Mercedes dominating since Formula 1’s return to Russia in 2014.

With seven wins in succession, the last being Valtteri Bottas’ 2020 victory by eight seconds over Verstappen, it is the Brackley squad who head to Russia as the favourites for the win.

Verstappen believes Red Bull have a chance this season to end Mercedes’ run.

“It was great to finish second there last year in Sochi especially as it has never been a good track for us as a team,” he said.

“We have been more competitive this year and we have a better package at the moment so it will be interesting to see how competitive we can be there this year.

“It will be of course completely different to Monza and it looks like there might be some rain this weekend.

“The track itself and the layout is completely different to the previous races so Iā€™m definitely looking forward to going back there and seeing what we can do.”

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