Russian Grand Prix - Max Verstappen to start last as Valtteri Bottas claims he 'wasn't allowed' to go for victories
Bottas was fastest in the first free practice session at the Sochi Autodrom, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton and the British driver's title rival Verstappen. The Finn will leave Mercedes and join Alfa Romeo in 2022, with George Russell uniting with his compatriot in Bottas' stead after leaving Williams. Verstappen will begin at the back of the grid on Sunday after chaninging his engine.
Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia.
"I think in Formula 1 you just never know how the season will progress. There is still a fair amount of races so never say never."
Meanwhile, Verstappen will start the Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid after changing his engine.
The Dutchman had been given a three-place penalty for his role in his crash with Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix and has taken the opportunity to change an engine that was damaged at the British Grand Prix earlier in the season.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will start just ahead of Verstappen after his own engine change.
Bottas was the fastest driver in both first and second practice at the Russian Grand Prix ahead of teammate Hamilton.
Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Valtteri Bottas is seen before races at the 2021 Formula 1 Russian Grang Prix at the Sochi Autodrom racing circuit.
Image credit: Getty Images
Bottas has won twice in Sochi during a seven-year spell of Mercedes dominance in Russia since the race's return to the F1 calendar in 2014.
He leaves the team at the end of the season for Alfa Romeo, with Williams' George Russell picked to combine with compatriot Hamilton in 2022.
Bottas was ordered to allow Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by five points as the Dutchman chases a first world title, to pass at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The Finnish driver hopes he can win again at the Russian Grand Prix: "For me personally, coming here is different, so the only thing that's in my mind is winning.
"That's the only thing that matters to me and that is my approach for this week."
Verstappen was only sixth fastest in second practice as Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) completed the top three on Friday afternoon in Russia.
Earlier, the Red Bull driver had been edged out by Hamilton behind Bottas, who showed good form at the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.