Formula 1

Brendon Hartley: “I think there could still be a bit to play for”

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Brendon Hartley - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda - Sochi Autodrom
Credit: Charles Coates/Getty Images

Brendon Hartley says there was no point putting any emphasis on Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday knowing they would be starting right at the back of the field in any case due to the grid penalty he knew he was taking ahead of the weekend.

The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver was eliminated in the first segment of Qualifying, finishing sixteenth overall having reverted back to the old specification of Honda power unit for Saturday’s running having experienced the updated engine on Friday for the first time.

Hartley says the updated power unit is definitely quicker than its predecessor, but it was important for Honda to get it perfect it ahead of their home race next weekend in Japan, with the Kiwi agreeing with the Japanese manufacturer about reverting back to the old unit for the rest of the weekend in Russia.

“We didn’t put a lot of emphasis on Qualifying today because of the penalties we will incur tomorrow,” said Hartley.  “Yesterday was a big exercise for Honda introducing a new power unit, but the decision was made not to use it for the rest of the weekend.

“It is definitely quicker, there’s no question marks there, but we want it to be perfect for Japan and make sure everything works as it should.”

Hartley knows it will be a tough race on Sunday from the back of the grid, but the pace shown during practice gives him hope that he can make progress, particularly if there is any kind of incident on the run down to turn two on the opening lap.

“What also makes it a tough race for us is starting from the back,” said the New Zealander.  “Our long run pace yesterday looked promising on the Soft tyre, so I think there could still be a bit to play for tomorrow.

“We’ve seen a few incidents here in the past, it’s a tricky first corner because it tightens up after the long straight off the start line, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow – we will still aim to do our best.”

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