World Cup leader Max Verstappen will tackle the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday (2 p.m. / in the FAZ live ticker on Formula 1 and on Sky) from the back of the field.

A new drive was installed on the Dutchman's Red Bull in the run-up to the 15th Formula 1 race of the season in Sochi.

Since the maximum of three engines per season was exceeded, Verstappen expects a corresponding penalty.

In the free practice session on Friday, Mercedes confirmed its favorite status for Sochi.

Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time and was 44 thousandths of a second faster than Verstappen's World Cup rival Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen was already a second behind in sixth, Sebastian Vettel was ninth in the Aston Martin.

Mick Schumacher landed in 20th and last place one day after the announcement of his contract extension at Haas.

For Verstappen, the engine change in the duel with world champion Hamilton is a tactical decision: Due to an accident of the title rivals in the last race in Monza, Verstappen would have been moved back by three starting positions in Sochi anyway.

Mercedes also has advantages on the Black Sea track, since 2014 the Silver Arrows have won every race here.

With eight races still outstanding, Verstappen would not have made it through the season without another engine change anyway.

In a race in which the chances are already slim, Red Bull is now consciously accepting the relocation.

“We are in good shape for the rest of the year,” said team principal Christian Horner.

However, Verstappen could lose the World Cup leadership: At the moment he is only five points ahead of Hamilton.

The sun shone over Sochi on Friday, but heavy rain is forecast for Saturday - so heavy that even a cancellation of qualifying could not be completely ruled out.

In this case, the result of the last free practice would be the basis for the starting grid.

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