Red Bull: Hamilton F1 grid penalty ‘doesn’t change anything for us’

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Mercedes confirmed on Friday following the start of practice at Interlagos that Hamilton had taken his fifth engine of the season ahead of the race weekend, sparking a grid penalty.

Hamilton will drop five places on the grid on Sunday, falling back from wherever he finishes the sprint race on Saturday evening.

It offers an opportunity for Verstappen to grow his lead over Hamilton further, having won the last two races and opened up a championship lead of 19 points with four races remaining.

Red Bull also has the chance to leapfrog Mercedes in the constructors’ championship this weekend, having drawn to within a single point of the German manufacturer in Mexico last Sunday.

Red Bull F1 chief Horner said that Hamilton’s penalty “doesn’t change anything for us”, and that he fully understood why Mercedes was taking the penalty in Brazil.

“We’ve just got to focus on doing the best job that we can,” Horner said during FP1 on Sky Sports F1. “There’s some weather around today, we’ve got the sprint race and then the main race on Sunday.

“It’s entirely understandable that Mercedes would decide to strategically take that penalty here, which they’ll incur on Sunday.

“We’ll just focus on ourselves and do the best job we can.”

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Mercedes has been battling reliability problems with its engines, forcing Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas and a number of customer teams to also take penalties in recent races.

Red Bull last took a grid penalty with Verstappen in Russia to add an extra engine to his available pool of components, which Horner expected would last until the end of the season.

“All things being normal, we expect to get to the end of the season with the combustion engines that we have,” Horner said. “The three in use from the beginning of the year, we obviously lost one in the crash at Silverstone. But with the penalty we took in Sochi, that got us back into good shape.

“So bar abnormal circumstances, we’d expect to get to the end of the year.”

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