“Mercedes being so strong here”– Helmut Marko explains why they have chosen Sochi as the appropriate place to serve an engine penalty.
On Friday, it was announced that Max Verstappen would be picking his fourth engine of 2021 that accounts for him to serve a grid penalty, which will need him to start the race on Sunday from P20.
This was a critical decision to make, and Helmut Marko explains what convinced Red Bull that Sochi was the right destination to implement it amidst their championship fight with Mercedes.
Max Verstappen: “We decided to do it here & we will try to make the best out of it in the race. We just thought to make the best possible race car for this weekend, once we decided to take that engine, so I hope it is going to work out. Let’s wait how the weather will be.”
— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) September 24, 2021
“Mercedes being so strong here… let’s say we finish third in qualifying,” Marko told Motorsport.com. “[Three] plus three is six, so 16th – because we could have changed with only ten places penalty – we had that choice.
“But between 16th and 20th doesn’t make a difference. So we chose to take everything. It’s safety, and you can attack in the coming races. You don’t have to worry.”
Everything is possible on Sunday
P20 is not a great place to start for a driver who is in such a delicate position while fighting for the championship. Still, Marko believes Verstappen can achieve a lot from there, especially after his teammate Sergio Perez did at Zandvoort.
“Qualifying doesn’t matter for us, so that we will focus on race set-up. It depends on how the race is going, is there a Safety Car or not? On the other hand, nobody thought you could overtake at Zandvoort, and [Sergio] Perez went up to, I think, eighth place with an extra stop.
“I think a lot of things are possible,” he concluded. Currently, Verstappen leads the championship with five points, and he would need to put in his all effort to be in the reach of Hamilton if the Briton goes on to have a brilliant race.
Moreover, a significant amount of rain is also expected, which may also change the course of the race.