Mercedes task Bottas with frustrating Verstappen in Russian GP

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) –


Valtteri Bottas has been tasked with helping Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by holding up championship leader Max Verstappen in Sunday's Russian Grand Prix after being relegated to 17th spot on the grid having made a strategic engine change before the race.

A Mercedes spokesperson confirmed the decision to switch up Bottas' power unit was a tactical one, made after Red Bull's Verstappen performed a similar change.

Verstappen starts in 20th place, the backmarker on the grid, after taking on a fourth Honda power unit.

Bottas, who qualified in seventh spot on Saturday, is expected to try and slow down Verstappen as he attempts to pick his way through the field.

This will allow Hamilton, who starts fourth on the grid, not only to try and secure his 100th Grand Prix win but also overtake the Dutchman at the top of the standings.

Verstappen presently holds a five point lead.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Nicholas Latifi of Williams will also start at the back after taking on their own new power units.

McLaren's Lando Norris took his first pole position and is joined on the front row by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

The race is due to begin at 1200 GMT.