Schumacher supports five-place penalty for Max Verstappen in Lewis Hamilton title fight

Lewis Hamilton goes undercover to inspire school children

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Max Verstappen recently received a five-place grid penalty after Red Bull decided to install a new internal combustion engine (ICE) in the title race against Mercedes. But the team are rumoured to be considering taking the approach again in order to have a fresh engine for the final two races of the season – and ex-driver Ralf Schumacher has backed the decision by claiming short-term pain will turn into long-term gain for the Dutchman against Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen started in seventh place in Qatar after a five-place penalty, although he finished second and gained an extra point for the Drivers’ Championship with the fastest lap.

There is now just a gap of eight points between the Dutchman and Hamilton with two races to go, with the Briton coming into form having won the last two races.

Red Bull’s decision to introduce an ICE raised eyebrows amongst those in the Formula One community.

But if rumours are to be believed, they may do the same again ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

And Schumacher believes it will work in the long run for the Dutchman, with a fresher engine essentially dragging him over the line in the last two dates in the calendar.

“At the moment, Mercedes are ahead,” he told Speedweek.

“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.

“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.

“Many have spoken of this supposed Mercedes miracle engine, but I think the reason for Hamilton’s strong performance in recent races is different.

“The decisive factor for me is how he handled the tyres. It was remarkable how Lewis caught up in Brazil and apparently didn’t ruin the tyres in the turbulence of his opponents.

“It used to be different. Mercedes must have achieved a breakthrough in terms of co-ordination.”

Verstappen knows he that if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes seventh or lower, he will have come away with his first Drivers’ Championship at the age of just 24.

However against someone as experienced as Hamilton, there is always the knowledge that Hamilton will not let him win easily.

Mercedes have won the last seven Constructors’ Championships, and will look to make it eight by capitalising on Hamilton’s strong end to the season.

Yet Red Bull will look to claim their first since Mercedes’ dominant spell in a battle that will surely go down to the wire.

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