Max Verstappen maintains his stance that the clash with Lewis Hamilton during the Italian Grand Prix was nothing but a racing incident, but he goes into the Russian Grand Prix weekend knowing he will take a three-place grid penalty for being deemed responsible for it by the stewards.
The Red Bull Racing driver was battling with his championship rival into the first chicane at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza only for the two to tangle, with the Dutchman’s RB16B ending up on top of Hamilton’s W12.
Verstappen says the penalty for the race at the Sochi Autodrom is far from ideal, but he still believes he can have a strong weekend in Russia as he continues his bid for his maiden World Drivers’ Championship.
“I think you can reflect all you like but it’s important to look forward and keep pushing,” said Verstappen. “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.
“The penalty is of course not ideal but nothing is lost, 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.”
Verstappen was pleased to take Red Bull’s first podium in Sochi in the 2020 event, and with a more competitive car, he is hoping to end the unbeaten winning streak of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team at the track, with the German marque having taken all six victories since the circuit joined the Formula 1 calendar in 2014.
“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 I’m definitely looking forward to going back there and seeing what we can do.”
“I really hope we can continue our form and start strong on Friday” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez goes into the Sochi weekend on the back of a more competitive weekend in Italy than expected, although he lost a podium finish thanks to a five-second time penalty for running off track and gaining an advantage in a battle with Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Pérez ultimately finished fifth, but he felt there were positives to take away from the Monza weekend, and he hopes the form they showed in Italy can translate into a strong performance in Russia.
“We knew going into Monza that it wasn’t our best track and it was a shame to lose the podium after the race with the penalty, but there are plenty of positives to take from the weekend,” said Pérez. “We’re going to a very different kind of track in Russia and so I really hope we can continue our form and start strong on Friday.
“It is very important we help each other out and try to get the most from each weekend for the Team, especially as we come towards the end of the season where there are less races to capitalise on.”
Pérez feels Mercedes will go into the weekend as favourites at Sochi, but he enjoys racing at the track and hopes to be in the fight at the front of the field all weekend long.
“Mercedes have won every race at Sochi since 2014 so they’re the favourites this weekend,” said the Mexican. “They’re definitely going to be hard to beat but like always we will give it our best.
“Sochi is a track I like because it is very technical, fast and fluid which I think makes qualifying quite exciting.“