Motor racing - Verstappen to start Russian GP from the back for taking new engine

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 24, 2021 Red Bull's Max Verstappen in action during practice REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

(Reuters) - Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen is set to start the Russian Grand Prix from the back of the grid after his Red Bull team elected to fit a new power unit to the Dutchman's car.

The 23-year-old, who leads Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by five points in the overall standings, was already carrying a three-place grid penalty after a collision with the Briton in the Italian Grand Prix that put both drivers out of the race.

Drivers are allowed no more than three power units per season and exceeding that allocation triggers grid penalties.

Verstappen, who has won seven races this year to Hamilton's four, can still mitigate any damage to his title lead in Sunday's race with the Sochi circuit relatively easier to overtake on.

He took similar penalties in the 2018 Russian race but scythed through the field from 19th on the grid to finish fifth.

The engine penalty, however, does smooth Hamilton's path to a landmark 100th win.

His Mercedes team have been unbeaten in Russia since the race joined the calendar in 2014 and predictably dominated Friday's opening practice session with Valtteri Bottas leading Hamilton.

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Ken Ferris)

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