(CNN)Formula One Championship leader Max Verstappen will start the Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid as Red Bull take a new engine.
The Dutchman arrived in Sochi already facing a three-grid penalty following a collision with title rival Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix, but his change to a new internal Honda combustion engine — as well as a range of new power components — will leave him chasing from the rear on Sunday.Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, having also taken on new power units ahead of this weekend, will also be at the back of the grid.
Verstappen and the rest of the drivers have been warming up on the Sochi Autodrom today, with Valtteri Bottas fastest in both practices.
‘It shows he doesn’t really know me’Read MoreYesterday, Verstappen shunned Hamilton’s suggestion that he might be feeling the pressure of a title fight. The pair arrived in Russia this weekend separated by just five points, with Verstappen maintaining a slender lead over the seven-time World Championship winner following their dramatic collision in Italy last time out.Upon landing in Sochi, Hamilton was asked if he believed Verstappen was feeling the heat of their title rivalry, which had simmered long before the crash at Monza.”Obviously, he won’t admit it and I’m not going to make an assumption,” Hamilton replied. “But I’m just saying I remember what it was like when I had my first one and it definitely mounted up.””It was difficult, it was intense, I was going through a lot of different emotions, I didn’t always handle it the best and that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of pressure, you’re working in a big team, there’s a lot of self-expectation and pressure because the desire to win is huge,” Hamilton added.The Englishman’s answer was relayed to Verstappen, who proceeded to answer with more than a hint of sarcasm.”Yeah, I’m so nervous, I can hardly sleep. It’s so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it,” Verstappen said.”No, I think if someone really knows me, I’m very relaxed about all those things and I really can’t be bothered, you know, I’m very chilled. It’s the best feeling ever to have a car, a great car where you go into every weekend and you can fight for a win,” he continued.”It doesn’t matter if you’re just leading a championship or not, those comments just shows you that he doesn’t really know me, which is fine, I don’t need to know him, how he is fully. “I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there at the front and, of course, hopefully we can do it for a really long time.” Verstappen and Hamilton collide at the Italian Grand Prix, Monza.Collision courseTensions have been bubbling between the two title chasers all season, with hostilities extending to the respective team principals at Red Bull and Mercedes.Following a collision on lap one between the drivers at the British Grand Prix in July, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Hamilton had been “completely out of order,” with his Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff responding that Red Bull’s comments on Hamilton were “below the belt.” With Verstappen retired from the race, the fact that Hamilton went on to take victory at Silverstone only intensified the rivalry — Verstappen tweeting his disappointment at Hamilton’s “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike” celebrations.
The dramatic crash at Monza earlier this month rocketed tensions to new heights, figuratively and literally, as Verstappen’s car landed on top of Hamilton’s following a wheel-to-wheel engagement. Hamilton, who said after the race he felt “fortunate to be alive,” told his team via the radio that the Red Bull driver had forced him wide, while Verstappen could be heard saying “that’s what you get when you don’t leave the space.”