Max Verstappen will start from rear in Russian GP; Valtteri Bottas fastest in 1st practice

F1 Verstappen engine rear
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — F1 championship leader Max Verstappen will start from the rear of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix after an engine change.

Verstappen, who already was facing a three-position grid penalty for contact with Lewis Hamilton two weeks ago at Monza, has a new Honda internal combustion engine, turbo and other components that have exceeded the Red Bull Racing team’s parts allocation for the season.

Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time in the first practice session Friday for the Russian GP ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas’ best time of 1 minute, 34.427 seconds was 0.211 seconds faster than Hamilton. Verstappen of Red Bull was 0.016 further back in third.

Charles Leclerc placed fourth for Ferrari and Red Bull driver Sergio Perez was ninth.

Both Friday sessions are expected to be dry, with heavy rain predicted for qualifying on Saturday, and rain considered likely for Sunday’s race.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen traded verbal blows at the Russian Grand Prix on Thursday, less than two weeks after a crash which knocked both of the Formula One title rivals out of the last race.

Seven-time champion Hamilton suggested Verstappen was feeling the pressure of fighting for what would be his first title.

“I remember what it was like fighting for my first championship, and obviously I’m fighting my 10th battle, something like that,” the British driver said. “I remember what it was like and I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences that go with it. So I can empathize with that. I think what’s important is that we just continue to race hard but fair.”

Verstappen dismissed Hamilton’s comments.

“I’m so nervous I can barely sleep. It’s so horrible to fight for a title, I really hate it,” he deadpanned. “Those comments, it just shows you that he doesn’t really know me, which is fine. I also don’t need to know him, how he is fully, but I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there in front.”

The rivals collided halfway through the last race in Italy, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to claim a surprise win for McLaren. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff credited the protective “halo” device around Hamilton’s cockpit with saving his life after Verstappen’s car bounced over his head. Verstappen has a three-place grid penalty in Russia after he was blamed for the crash – “Not ideal, but not the end of the world,” he said.

The day after the crash, Hamilton attended the Met Gala in New York. He credited yoga and acupuncture with helping him to recover from neck pain sustained in the crash and said in Russia he was feeling fine.

“It’s natural that when a car lands on your head, you’re going to have some sort of discomfort,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t say I was dying. Of course, aware of the fact that just in a millisecond anything can happen, and so I did feel grateful to come out of it not badly injured.”

It was the second time the two drivers clashed this year after a similar incident at the British GP.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.