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Max Verstappen

How Red Bull plan to defend Verstappen's title lead in Russia

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko is not writing off the Russian Grand Prix weekend due to Max Verstappen's grid penalty.

Marko Verstappen Monza
To news overview © Red Bull Contentpool

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko is still hopeful that Max Verstappen will be able to defend his title lead at the Russian Grand Prix, despite a grid drop for clashing with Lewis Hamilton at Monza, and the possibility of an engine change.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by five points in the standings but will be demoted at least three places on the grid at Sochi Autodrom, where Mercedes have claimed a clean sweep of victories since the track arrived on the F1 calendar in 2014.

An additional penalty could follow this weekend, as Red Bull need to fit a fourth Honda power unit to Verstappen's car to see him through the remainder of the season, with a decision yet to be made over where it will be taken.

Asked by German broadcaster RTL how Red Bull plan to defend Verstappen's title lead in such circumstances, Marko said: "By being aggressive in our approach. Unfortunately, we suffered a three-place grid penalty at Monza, but thank God overtaking is possible in Sochi."

On the subject of a potential engine change, Marko said: "We will wait to see how we compare to Mercedes and base our strategy on that.

"If you look at the past years it is clearly a Mercedes circuit. But that's irrelevant now, because we've been catching up big time this year and have been competitive at almost all circuits."

While Red Bull have been open about the need to fit a fourth power unit, Mercedes have remained coy, with team boss Toto Wolff saying "it is not an absolute must".

"We are limited regarding our engine," Marko continued.

"We have to change the engine in one of the next races, which is due to the damage we suffered [in the crash] at Silverstone. However, it does not necessarily have to be at the Sochi race."

He added: "We'll wait for qualifying and the weather conditions and then we'll make a decision. It may be if we see enough overtaking opportunities and if we start from the back we still have a chance of getting points."

Verstappen rose from the back to the front of the grid at Sochi in 2018 after taking a grid penalty. He finished in fifth position following a late pit-stop.

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