September 26, 2019 / 2:06 PM / 5 months ago

Penalty for Verstappen, Kvyat to back of Russian GP grid

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Max Verstappen will have a five-place grid penalty and Daniil Kvyat will start his home Russian Formula One Grand Prix from the back of the field on Sunday as a result of power unit changes.

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2019 Red Bull's Max Verstappen ahead of the Russian Grand Prix REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Honda said Kvyat and his Toro Rosso team mate Pierre Gasly, along with Red Bull’s Verstappen and Alexander Albon would all have grid drops after being given new engines for the race in Sochi.

“With a different replacement history, Kvyat is changing all (power unit) elements except the battery. He will start from the back of the grid,” the Japanese manufacturer said on its F1 Twitter account on Thursday.

“The other three will get five place grid penalties.”

The move ensures all four cars have fresher engines for Honda’s home race in Japan on Oct. 13, the next round after Russia.

Neither Red Bull-owned team have had drivers finish on the podium in Sochi, a track with both high speed straights and low speed corners.

Verstappen, winner of two races this season, is fourth in the championship but level on points with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

The pair are both 96 points behind Mercedes’ five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton with six races remaining. Champions Mercedes have won every Russian Grand Prix since the first in 2014.

Kvyat is the only Russian driver on the starting grid.

Verstappen started on the back row in last year’s race at Sochi due to engine penalties and was leading after 19 laps, when others pitted, before the 21-year-old Dutchman finished fifth.

The sport’s youngest race winner, who has now collected an engine penalty for the second time in three races, doubted his drop would be a major setback and looked forward to plenty of passing.

“Last year we started from the back and overtaking didn’t seem like a big problem around here,” he said. “Maybe the midfield teams are a little bit more competitive this year but, I don’t care, it should be alright.

“You might lose a little bit of time to the guys ahead but, realistically speaking, you would anyway qualify fourth or fifth, so it’s not going to change a lot.”

Ferrari have won the last three races and Sunday’s race looks like being a battle between the Italian team and Mercedes, who are leading both championships.

Hamilton is 65 points clear of Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.

Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar

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