Max Verstappen refuses Saudi GP penalty as Red Bull calls to copy Lewis Hamilton snubbed

Max Verstappen says there is no need for Red Bull to fit a new engine and take a five-place grid penalty at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix because the peak performance of their power units is longer lasting than rivals Mercedes.

Ralf Schumacher, the younger brother of Formula One legend Michael, was among those suggesting that Verstappen should instal a new engine for extra power against Lewis Hamilton.

The championship-defending Briton’s power unit in Saudi Arabia has only been used once before, in Brazil, where he ultimately cruised to victory after hunting down race leader Verstappen.

That was despite receiving a five-place grid penalty for fitting a new internal combustion engine and starting the sprint race on Saturday in P20.

He finished P5 but was relegated to 10th for Sunday’s race as a result of his new ICE, but was still able to record a brilliant victory in Interlagos.

And Schumacher said: “There are currently rumours that Honda might install a new internal combustion engine after all and accept a penalty of five places, in order to have a fresh engine against Mercedes.

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“That might make sense. Red Bull could say ‘Jeddah is a Mercedes track anyway, so in the best case scenario we will finish second.’

“Then better back five places, in the hope of working your way up to second place in the race, but then having a fresher engine at the World Championship final in Abu Dhabi.”

But Verstappen insists, unlike Mercedes, fitting a new engine would not make too much of a difference for Red Bull this weekend or in Abu Dhabi for the 2021 season’s finale next Sunday.

“We don’t have that peak power with a new engine like Mercedes does,” said the Dutchman, who leads Hamilton by eight points atop the Drivers’ Championship with two races to go.

“Our engine performs pretty consistently over its lifecycle. Putting a new one in wouldn’t really give us much. I know what I have in terms of engines and we should be able to get to the end with those.”

Hamilton was fastest in both FP1 and FP2 at the high-speed new Jeddah track with the seven-time world champion and Valtteri Bottas enjoying a one-two in second practice.

But Hamilton actually feels Red Bull’s single-lap pace is superior, which will of course aid Verstappen and Sergio Perez in qualifying.

“We’re not rapid on the single lap, I would say, compared to the others, but the long run is not too bad,” Hamilton said after FP2.

“We made some changes between sessions. I’m not sure which one I want to stay with.

“We’ll study through tonight and work with the guys at the factory to try and make sure we come up with the right setup tomorrow. It is definitely not in a bad place.

“I think as I said on a single lap they [Red Bull] are quite quick, so we’ve got a bit of work to do.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner reflected: “You can see that it’s pretty tight. It’s a challenging circuit, high-speed with walls.

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