Max Verstappen’s world title hopes have suffered a setback after it was confirmed he will start Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid after Red Bull took a penalty for using too many engines.

Red Bull decided to use a fourth Honda Power Unit – one more than is allowed across the season – in Friday’s practice session in Sochi, accepting the outcome on top of a three-place grid penalty for his Italian GP crash with Hamilton.

It means the Dutchman, who holds a five-point lead over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the top of the drivers’ standings, will start at the back of the grid on Sunday, alongside Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who has also had to accept a penalty for exceeding his amount of permitted engines.

While it’s been a bad start to the weekend for Red Bull, title rivals Mercedes enjoyed Friday’s two practice sessions as Valtteri Bottas led Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two in both outings. Bottas was 0.044 seconds quicker than Hamilton in the second session, ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in third, McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon fifth and Verstappen was sixth quickest.

Hamilton is 4/9 to win Sunday’s race, Bottas is 3/1 and Verstappen is 12/1 to recover and win in Russia.

There are concerns over Saturday’s planned P3 and Qualifying sessions as heavy rain is forecast for Sochi and the FIA could instead hold Qualifying on Sunday morning before the race if conditions do not suit.

Hamilton admitted Mercedes must try to take advantage of Verstappen being pushed to the back and he’s already eyeing a repeat of the Practice positions come Sunday as the title race took another twist.

He told Sky Sports: “We’ve got to try and capitalise on (Verstappen’s penalty) and a one-two would be a spectacular result for the team.”

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