Read in 1 min.

Valtteri Bottas driving his Mercedes during the qualifying session for the Russian GP at the Sochi Autodrome, September 25, 2021 / AFP

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas will start the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix in 16th position on Sunday, penalized for a “strategic” engine change, in the terms chosen by Mercedes.

Bottas having inherited a new engine during the previous round and having been penalized for it, the reasons for this change qualified as “tactical opportunity” question.

Is it using it to slow down world championship leader Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 20th and last on the grid, and thus favor his British teammate Lewis Hamilton? Or to face a technical problem?

During the drivers’ parade that precedes the GP, which will start at 3:00 p.m. local (2:00 p.m. French / 12:00 GMT), Bottas explained that this “tactical” change should allow him to “see the end of the race”.

However, he will also be in a position to slow Verstappen as he progresses forward. This would leave the field open to Hamilton, fourth on the grid and just five lengths behind the Dutchman in the drivers’ standings.

The Italian Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), for his part, was penalized five places for a gearbox change, which put him back in 17th position.