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Grid penalty-hit Verstappen explains why Red Bull chose to take new engine at Sochi

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has explained why he’s taken a new Honda power unit, which will see him start the Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid, at Sochi.

Verstappen finished third in FP1 and followed that up with P6 in FP2, with the announcement that he would take a new power unit coming during the second session on Friday afternoon in Russia. He was already carrying a three-place grid penalty going into the weekend and that has been compounded with a back-of-grid start for Sunday given his new power unit components.

READ MORE: ‘It shows he doesn’t know me’ – Verstappen brushes off Hamilton’s suggestion title race pressure is getting to him

Asked if his Friday practice results prompted him to take the new parts, he replied: “Not only the results. I said before that we’ll take everything into account, also with the weather for tomorrow. So we thought it would be best to take it here.”

But Verstappen has experience in making his way from the back of the pack. Take the 2018 Russian Grand Prix, for example, where he started 19th thanks to engine-related grid penalties and finished fifth. Despite that, he was not convinced the same could happen on Sunday.

Max Verstappen: Taking engine penalty at Russian GP was 'best' option

“Of course, in 2018, the gaps to the midfield were a bit bigger,” he explained. “Naturally I think it will be a bit more difficult to come through but we have to take the penalty anyway.

“If we wouldn’t have taken it here we would have taken it somewhere else. We think now we’ll decide to do it here and try to make the best of it in the race,” he said.

READ MORE: 'They can’t race with velvet gloves on’ – Horner and Wolff won't rule out more Hamilton-Verstappen contact

He added that Red Bull won’t make any drastic set-up changes to make up for the fact that their championship challenger is starting on the back row alongside Charles Leclerc on Sunday.

He said: “We just try to make the best possible racecar for this weekend of course, once we decided to take that engine. So I hope it’s going to work out but tomorrow, let’s first wait and see how the weather will be.”

The weather forecast currently shows that there’s a high chance of heavy rain on Saturday, which could make qualifying an intensely challenging session for the drivers.

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