Verstappen expects podium is out of reach in Sochi

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB15.
© XPB 

Max Verstappen says he's remaining realistic heading into Sunday's Russian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Bull driver finished qualifying in fourth place, but will take a five place grid demotion for taking additional power unit elements this weekend.

That means he will actually line-up in ninth place, on a circuit where it's possible to overtake - but which can also lure drivers into making costly mistakes.

Verstappen certainly feels he can make up ground tomorrow, and put himself in the top five by the time the chequered flag comes out.

"I always knew qualifying would be tricky on such a power sensitive circuit but the lap was good and there wasn’t much more in it," he said of his afternoon effort.

"The corners around here are mostly ninety degrees and very short, so you can’t gain a lot of lap time out of them. But to be P4 and splitting the Mercedes was pretty good.

"With the penalty and starting ninth we need to make a clean start, stay alert and hope the people around us do the same," he added. "I think the realistic target is probably fifth but we will of course try to do better."

One thing that could make a big difference in the race is Mercedes' decision to put Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas on soft tyres while the rest of the top ten all line up on the soft compound.

If that backfires on the Silver Arrows pair then it could be an opportunity for Verstappen to pounce. "It will be interesting to see what happens with Mercedes on a different strategy," he agreed.

Alexander Albon (THA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14 crashes in Q1.

Unfortunately Verstappen's rookie team mate Alexander Albon won't be able to be of much help to him in the race. The Thai driver will be starting the race near the back of the grid after crashing out in Q1.

"There’s nothing really to say other than I went in a bit hot like Max did in FP3 and I lost the rear," Albon explained. "There’s a tailwind in that corner and it just caught me out.

"When these cars go, they go quick. It was a silly mistake – that’s pretty much it, and it’s just frustrating."

"We’re starting out of place, but I’m optimistic as the car feels good in the long runs and you can also overtake here," he pointed out.

"We’ve seen before when starting at the back that we can progress through the field so we’ll give it everything tomorrow.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner sympathised with the young driver's situation in Sochi.

"It was a shame for Alex today. He came across a yellow flag on his first lap in Q1 and unfortunately a spin on his second resulted in him touching the barrier which took him out of qualifying.

"Hopefully we can be in good shape for the race. It’s a track you can overtake at so it should be an exciting Grand Prix.”

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