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Max Verstappen

Horner explains Verstappen's engine change and grid penalty

Christian Horner believes it is best for Red Bull "strategically" to take a grid penalty hit at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Verstappen ears
To news overview © XPBimages

Christian Horner says it would have been "tight" for Red Bull on engine mileage for the remainder of the Formula 1 season, hence Max Verstappen's grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was fastest of all in FP2 at Spa-Francorchamps, ending 0.862s quicker than Charles Leclerc to follow on from third fastest in the first session earlier in the day.

However, Verstappen, and indeed Leclerc, are among a clutch of drivers who will drop to the rear of the field for Sunday's Grand Prix, having exceeded their engine allocation by taking new parts.

In the case of the World Champion, Red Bull have fitted a fourth internal combustion engine, turbocharger, and MGU-H and MGU-K, meaning he will start towards the rear of the 20-car grid.

Verstappen's ultimate starting position will still be determined in qualifying and where he places relative to the other penalised drivers.

Red Bull thinking strategically, explains Horner

Teams are limited on their engine allocation as a cost-saving measure, but Spa is a popular place to take any grid penalties for extra components due to its overtaking-friendly nature.

This is something Horner says was factored into the decision to take the hit for Verstappen this weekend.

"You look strategically at the calendar, [and] we felt it was particularly tight to get to the end of the year with the engine allocation that we have," Horner explained to Sky Sports F1 post-FP2.

"You then look at the circuits coming up, Zandvoort you don't want to take it there; Monza is actually harder to overtake than you think; Singapore you don't want to take it [and] Japan's tricky to overtake, so you start running out of options.

"This is a good track to overtake and we feel we should be quick here, so hence we've decided to take the opportunity [this weekend].

"[Spa] probably has the smallest overtaking delta needed of the season, here and Bahrain are probably two of the easiest circuits on the calendar to actually make an overtake.

"That's why probably so many people have nominated this circuit to take that penalty to try and get engines in the pool for the rest of the year."

Horner expects "two races" at Spa

With the faster cars of Verstappen and Leclerc due to be out of position for the start of the race, Horner is also expecting "two races" as they fight through the pack to catch the actual race leaders.

"It looks like Carlos [Sainz] might not be taking a penalty, the Mercedes potentially not either," he explained.

"So it's going to make two races, which are going to be fascinating. You're going to see potentially those guys battling it out at the front and we'll be seeing how quickly can Max and Charles make their way through the pack.

"At a circuit like this, where you can overtake, I think it's going to be a fascinating race."

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