Max Verstappen title concerns raised by Christian Horner in Lewis Hamilton battle

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Max Verstappen title concerns raised by Christian Horner in Lewis Hamilton battle

Christian Horner has claimed Mercedes have made “phenomenal” gains with their power unit recently, giving Red Bull an extra headache in the battle

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Christian Horner has claimed Mercedes have made “phenomenal” gains with their power unit recently, giving Red Bull an extra headache in the battle for the championship with just six races remaining.

Max Verstappen holds a six-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the driver standings after finishing second after the Turkish Grand Prix, with the seven-time world champion crossing the line in fifth.

Hamilton and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas have taken new engines over the past few races, with the Finn changing significant aspects of the power unit too.

Despite two drivers on the podium, the Red Bulls couldn’t get close to the Mercedes of Red Bull who took a commanding win in Istanbul.

Earlier in the weekend, Horner had claimed Hamilton looked the “quickest he had looked all year” ahead of the race, with Verstappen and Sergio Perez outpaced by the Mercedes duo in qualifying.

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After the race, Horner added: “Their straight-line speed has taken a significant step recently, and I think that whereas we could match them with smaller wings previously, now we can’t get near.

“We saw that particularly at this circuit where Lewis, in particular, had a significant straight-line advantage with a bigger rear wing on the car. We’ve got to maximise our package as best we can and, as I say, it’s surprising that they’ve made the step that they have with the power unit.”

Mercedes insist nothing has changed in their engine, apart from fitting a new one to Hamilton’s car ahead of Friday’s practice session.

But Horner added Red Bull, alongside some other teams, have “raised questions” to the FIA.

“We ask some questions which all teams do. It wasn’t just Red Bull, by the way, it was other manufacturers raising questions as well and they continue to be raised,” Horner added.

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“It is something for the FIA to look at and for them to police, but the straight-line speed…when you’ve got straight-line speed that is greater with a DRS open, that is pretty impressive.

“We’re happy with the performance we had this weekend. I think the engineering team and the recovery we had, we were out of sync on Friday, the work that we did on Friday night with Sebastian Buemi in the simulator and the set-up we used on Saturday, it worked well today.

“I mean, if you look at the straight-line speed of particularly Lewis [in the race], it was like 15 to 20 [km/h] up after the kink on the straight. It’s phenomenal.

“We’ve got to find a bit of straight-line speed – maybe they were running a different downforce configuration, but some speed to find.

“And we’ve got some tracks coming up that hopefully suit us, but we know Austin is Hamilton territory, so we’re going to have to be on our A-game.”

Championship leader Verstappen echoed Horner’s comments and admitted Red needed to find more pace.

“They were definitely quicker this weekend,” he said. “We just didn’t get it together and also in the wet they seemed to have a bit of the edge as well.

“I definitely do think they probably stepped it up a bit.”

F1 heads to Austin in a fortnight’s time, with Hamilton keen to close the gap to Verstappen.



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