'Sochi is going to be tough' – Red Bull braced for Russia engine penalties
Red Bull remain the only Renault-powered team on the grid to try the French firm’s more powerful Spec C power unit this season – including Renault themselves. But despite Max Verstappen using the extra grunt to net a strong second place in Singapore last time out, the team are set to revert back to the less highly-strung Spec B for this weekend's Russian Grand Prix.
Having first tried the Spec C unit at Monza, Verstappen then spent the entire Singapore weekend suffering with driveability issues. Despite that, he still managed to qualify second – although he felt he could have been on pole without his engine issues – before driving to second in the race, finishing just nine seconds behind Lewis Hamilton’s clean-running Mercedes W09.
“The amount of problems I’ve had today – even in qualifying – with the engine, and not having a smooth run, to be second is unbelievable,” was Verstappen’s review of the weekend, with the Dutchman also revealing that his team had to detune the engine to get it working more reliably. “It just shows we have an amazing car.”
Because of those issues, Red Bull have decided to put the Spec C experiment on ice, instead opting to fit fresh Spec B units to Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo’s cars in Russia – a move which will entail grid penalties for both drivers.
We accepted the risks when we took this Spec C engine. It has delivered a bit more power and it has been a bit rough around the edges
“We’ve got the previous specification going in for the next race, so Sochi is going to be a tough weekend for us,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, adding that the team will give the Spec C units another chance at the Japanese Grand Prix.
“We accepted the risks when we took this [Spec C] engine. It has delivered a bit more power and it has been a bit rough around the edges.
“I think the [Red Bull mechanics] actually did a good job to tidy it up as best they could on the mapping within their parameters. With more time and more optimisation, it would only be better.”
With several long straights, the Sochi track is not best-suited to Red Bull’s 2018 challenger, hence the reason for sacrificing both drivers' Russian Grand Prix weekends. But Horner is still eyeing up at least one big result for the team before 2018 is out…
“I think realistically this year, Mexico is probably the only shot we’ve got left [of a win] under normal circumstances,” he said. But if Red Bull are going to repeat their 2017 victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, they’ll be needing their TAG Heuer-branded power units to run like clockwork…