Red Bull Racing experienced a difficult qualifying at the Russian Grand Prix, with Sergio Pérez to start from ninth and Max Verstappen of course starting from the back of the grid after having an engine change.
With Verstappen not really taking part in qualifying to prevent any unnecessary damage, it was a day for Pérez to take the lead in the Red Bull camp and take the fight to the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. In Qualifying One and Two the Mexican did just that, performing strongly in the difficult damp conditions at the Sochi Autodrom.
However it all unravelled in Qualifying Three, Pérez failed to switch from intermediates to slicks quick enough and was unable to challenge the front runners. In the end it’s a disappointing ninth place for Pérez, although the Mexican does believe the team are moving more positively into Sunday.
“Things were looking really promising and we had a strong Q1 and Q2. But in the changing weather and track conditions, timing is important and in hindsight we probably could have tried slick tyres one lap earlier. As we know anything can happen in the race and a positive to take from today is that the car was performing very well in the wet. We are going to move positively into Sunday and the main target will be to get a strong start and then put together the best possible race.”
“Hopefully we can have a fun race” – Max Verstappen
For Verstappen it was a pointless session, the Dutchman left the pits, drove round the circuit, then came straight back into the pits an got out the car.
With Verstappen starting at the back of the grid after being awarded an engine penalty for having a fourth power unit fitted, outside of his three engine allocation, the team decided not to take any risks in qualifying. A smart decision considering the difficulty in the track conditions, and also the fact that the race on Sunday is forecast to be dry.
Verstappen thinks the track conditions will be similar in the race however despite the forecast, as he prepares himself to recover as many points as possible in his world championship fight.
“We decided not to do too many laps in qualifying as the risk of having a moment or an accident would not be worth it, especially as I’m starting from the back of the grid tomorrow. The track conditions were fine and there was good grip, I think it will be similar conditions during the race. The Team did a great job and I’m confident that we made a good decision about how we set up the car. “
Looking ahead to tomorrow, it’s always tricky as naturally the midfield will be a bit closer but it will be important to go out there and score as many points as possible, we’ll do our very best. Hopefully we can have a fun race!”