Lewis Hamilton at a disadvantage in Max Verstappen fight says Red Bull’s Christian Horner

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Christian Horner believes Red Bull have the upper hand heading into the final six races of the Formula One season, with Mercedes suffering from additional reliability concerns. Despite Lewis Hamilton taking a fourth engine change ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went one better during the Russian Grand Prix, and took a fourth power unit.

It meant Verstappen started at the back of the grid, whilst Hamilton only incurred a 10-place grid penalty in Istanbul for taking a fresh ICE [internal combustion unit].

Verstappen made his way up from 20th to second on the grid after Red Bull perfectly timed their tyre change as rain began to fall in the latter part of the race.

Yet when Hamilton was serving his 10-place penalty, found himself finishing fifth in Istanbul due to the Briton refusing to change his tyres with a drying track.

But despite the mixed fortunes, Horner believes Red Bull are in a much stronger position, and in theory, won’t have to take another grid penalty due to engine or power unit changes.

“You can do all the sims and modelling you like and then something variable happens,” said Horner. 

“There is no such thing as total stability like you have in a simulated world to the end of the year.

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“There could be other twists and turns in this, let’s wait and see.”

Questions were raised when his team-mate Valtteri Bottas took back-to-back grid penalties in Italy and in Russia, as Mercedes took a shock decision to take a fifth power unit ahead of the race in Sochi.

Reports suggest that Mercedes were recently forced to take their entire stock back to their factory in Brixworth for analysis, with claims Bottas had lost the use of one of his new engines from his pool.

But with six points now separating Verstappen from Hamilton at the top of the standings, even the slightest incident could see the championship decided.

“We have taken a penalty, gotten into a good position, we have taken the additional parts as well, the battery, the MGU-K, the H,” explained Horner.

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“Lewis has just taken the ICE, the combustion which is less of a penalty but is still going to put a lot of stress on those other components to the end of the year.”

Hamilton meanwhile admitted it’s “not his job” to take on any worries Mercedes may have regarding their engines with the seven-time world champion looking to wrap up an eighth world title across the remaining six races of the 2021 season.

“I don’t really give any energy to it,” Hamilton said after the race in Turkey.

 

“It’s not my job to worry about that stuff, so I let the guys focus on that, worry about it.

“My engine is in good condition. My first engine, I think, did six races. We still have engine two, and I think engine three is still there.

“As far as I’m aware, hopefully, I don’t have to [use a fifth engine], but I can’t predict what’s up ahead.”

Verstappen leads the way heading to the Circuit of the Americas with qualifying at 10pm on Saturday and the race getting underway at 8pm on Sunday.

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