Lewis Hamilton penalty expected by Red Bull boss Christian Horner

Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner expects Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton to follow suit and take an engine penalty during the closing stages of the 2021 season, just like Max Verstappen has done. The Brit claimed his 100th win in the sport after McLaren’s Lando Norris unfortunately spun late on at the Russian Grand Prix as the rain caused havoc.

The 36-year-old has become the first driver in F1 history to win 100 Grands Prix while bitter title rival Max Verstappen came second.

With his landmark win, Hamilton has overtaken Verstappen in the standings and currently holds a slender two point lead over the Dutchman.

Red Bull decided to replace Verstappen’s power unit ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, forcing the 23-year-old to start from the back of the grid.

It was considered a wise decision due to Mercedes’ traditional dominance at the Sochi circuit as well as the fact that Verstappen had already been given a three-place grid penalty for his collision with Hamilton at Monza.

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The move paid off as Verstappen made his way up from the back of the grid to P2, although he was helped by the fine decision to pit for intermediate tyres at the right time.

With other Mercedes-powered cars changing their power units, Horner is confident Hamilton will have to do the same soon.

“We’re not privy to that kind of information,” Horner told media members when asked about a potential Hamilton engine change.

“But you’d assume that [with] the amount of Mercedes engines that are being changed in their sister cars and customer teams, you’d expect potentially for there to be a penalty, but obviously we can’t rely on it.”

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Mercedes replaced some of Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ power unit ahead of the race in Sochi, forcing the Finn to drop to 16th after he had qualified in seventh place.

The Silver Arrows declared the move was a ‘tactical opportunity’ as Bottas was deployed to try and obstruct Verstappen in an attempt to give Hamilton every possible advantage in the title race.

However, the Dutchman made light work of Alfa Romeo-bound Bottas, easily passing him during the race to the delight of Horner.

“I’m not aware of the reasons why [they changed Bottas’ engine],” Horner explained. 

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“It was stated tactically before the race.

“I thought Valtteri was fair with Max when they were racing wheel-to-wheel. He didn’t lose any time passing him, and that was an important move in the race.

“Obviously they’ve got issues like all of us are managing. We’re very much focused on our own issues rather than Mercedes.”

After a week off, Formula 1 will return for the Turkish Grand Prix on October 8, with seven-time world champion Hamilton holding a slender two-point lead with six races remaining.

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