Red Bull expect Mercedes edge at Monza & Sochi in 'massively tight' F1 title battle

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Red Bull will need to "limit the damage" as they predict Mercedes to have an edge at the Italian and Russian Grand Prix.

With back-to-back wins at Spa and Zandvoort, Max Verstappen has reclaimed the lead over Lewis Hamilton in the Formula 1 Drivers' standings by just three points.

However, the Dutchman has a very poor record at Monza with a best finish of fifth in 2018, while Mercedes has never been beaten in Sochi.

"Their car and engine package has always been historically very strong at those two venues and they have been weaker venues for us," Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted.

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"I expect them to have the advantage at the next two but, thereafter, it should be nip and tuck, I would certainly hope.

"The next two weekends for us are about trying to limit the damage as much as we can and extract from the car as much as we can."

Previously, Red Bull had suggested the development of this year's car would end at the summer break, and Horner did indicate there were no more immediate upgrades coming.

"Obviously, there is a huge amount of effort going into 2022," he said.

"Going into Monza, Monza wings [low-downforce spec] as all drivers and cars will have, but we are getting to the end of the cycle with this car now.

"If there are marginal gains in any particular area, you have to go for them."

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As for how Red Bull sees the rest of the championship playing out, Horner expects the pendulum to swing several ways between now and Abu Dhabi.

"It is massively tight, isn't it? he noted.

"There are going to be circuits that suit Mercedes and circuits that suit us over the next phase of this championship. We have to make sure we grab every opportunity."

On Mercedes' side, team boss Toto Wolff admits there is no room to slip up.

“We have nine races to go in this Championship fight and the battle will only get more intense, but our mission is clear,” he said in his Italian GP preview.

“Last time out at Zandvoort, we simply didn’t put all the pieces together – we took some risks and gave it our best shot but it just wasn’t enough.

“A double podium brought us solid and useful points, extending our Constructors’ Championship advantage, but we know we need to be consistently bringing our A-game if we want to finish this season on top.


“As we visit Monza to finish this triple-header, we face a completely different track and challenge, which is exciting for all of us," he added.

"It’s a historic and unique circuit, with the lowest downforce levels of the season and most of the lap spent at full throttle.

“It’s also the second race weekend with the Sprint Qualifying format, so that will add some extra spice to the mix too.

"We learned lessons on the new format at Silverstone and look forward to bringing that knowledge with us into this weekend.

“The atmosphere at Zandvoort was incredible and to have so many passionate fans engaged in this sport is great to see.

“While we won’t have as many fans at Monza, I’m sure the atmosphere will still be great and this track always delivers thrilling F1 races, so we look set for another fun weekend of on-track action.”