Red Bull’s Helmut Marko drops further hint that could give Lewis Hamilton extra advantage

Hamilton takes stunning win after crash with Max Verstappen

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Red Bull admit they still haven’t decided if they will replace Max Verstappen’s engine ahead of the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, with advisor Helmut Marko suggesting the team will “wait for qualifying” before they make a decision.

Honda confirmed Verstappen had lost the use of his second internal combustion engine (ICE) of the season after a huge shunt at the British Grand Prix that saw the Dutchman involved in a 51G crash with Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap of the race.

The incident cost him his second ICE, with Red Bull fitting a third for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Yet, with a three-place grid drop aT Sochi due to a second crash with Hamilton, this time at the Italian Grand Prix, the 23-year-old will not be able to start any higher than fourth on the grid.

Drivers can only make three engine changes a season before they are hit with a 10-place grid penalty, and with a grid drop already confirmed, Red Bull remain on the fence.

“We are limited on the engine side,” Marko told RTL. “We have to replace the engine somewhere in the coming races, because of the damage to the Silverstone engine.

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“We will wait for qualifying, we’ll wait for the weather, and then we’ll make a decision”

Verstappen scored Red Bull’s first podium at Sochi in 2020, but was sandwiched between the two Mercedes drivers on the podium.

Yet, the 78-year-old believes Sochi has plenty of overtaking opportunities and could be the best place to take such a hit.

“Could be,” Marko said. “It depends on the overall picture of the possibility for overtaking and scoring points, especially if we start from the very back.”

Verstappen picked up the penalty for crashing into Hamilton two weeks ago on lap 26 of the race.

Hamilton was exiting the pits and found himself alongside his main title rival heading into the first chicane at Monza.

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With neither driving yielding, Verstappen bumped along the kerbs propelling his Red Bull into the air and slamming down on the Mercedes of Hamilton.

The right rear tyre of the Red Bull was seen grazing across Hamilton’s cockpit and making contact with the seven-time world champions helmet, with both cards left beached in the gravel.

The stewards decided Verstappen was “predominantly to blame” for the accident and was hit with a grid drop for Russia, something Marko said Red Bull “accepts” but “In our opinion, it was a racing accident.”

In the aftermath, Hamilton praised the halo – a curved bar in front of the driver’s head which protected him from a more severe impact during the crash.

But he said he was surprised by Verstappen’s actions, saying he would have expected the championship leader to check whether he was okay after the impact.

Hamilton said: “It all happened incredibly quick and being in the car at the time, the only thing I could think of was getting going and how many positions I would lose.

“I was still just in race mode, so it was just like, ‘How can I get going again?’ I was sitting there in a little bit of pain, but was thinking, come on let’s go. But unfortunately, the car wouldn’t move.

“I did see Max get out and just walk by and I felt that was a little bit surprising, because ultimately when we do have incidents, the first thing we want to make sure is that the guy that we collide with or crash into is okay.

“But the good thing is that I was able to get out. It was a long walk back and we live to fight another day.”

Verstappen however defending his decision, adding he could see “Lewis was fine.”

“He was still trying to reverse when I was already out of the car, so when you’re not fine, you are not doing that,” he added.

Verstappen leads the way by five points over Hamilton heading to the Russian Grand Prix. 

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