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'The guys behind will be a lot closer' – Verstappen braced for Red Bull to slip back in Russia

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SCARPERIA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 12: Third placed qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull

“It’s never been an amazing weekend for us in terms of competitiveness”, is how Max Verstappen described past Russian Grands Prix at Sochi for Red Bull. And with teams such as McLaren, Renault and Racing Point converging on them, Verstappen expects not to attack Mercedes but to have to fend off an attack from the midfield this weekend.

“I don’t expect any miracles,” continued Verstappen before the race at Sochi, as he explained why Red Bull see the former home of the Winter Olympics as something of a ‘bogey’ track.

READ MORE: Honda bring ‘countermeasures’ to Russia after Verstappen’s Mugello power unit problems

“Of course, there are a lot of long straights and a lot of 90-degree corners, which are very short corners, so you can’t make a massive difference.

"So probably the guys behind, they will be a lot closer compared to Mugello and we’ll see throughout the weekend how competitive we are going to be – but of course the aim is going to try and be on the podium,” he said.

In Russia, Verstappen has never qualified better than seventh (2017) and finished better than fourth (as he did in 2019) – but more concerning for him are the three retirements he’s had this season in nine races, including one last time out at Mugello.

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix: Gasly crashes into Verstappen at Turn 3

“I did more laps in [pre-season] testing than I did during the whole F1 weekend,” said Verstappen of last week’s race where he retired on Lap 1 at Turn 3. “It’s a shame. I would’ve loved to be in that race but [making] two corners is not amazing.

“What was more important at the time was to understand the problems so we can solve them, because at the moment we had three retirements in nine races. It’s not very lovely.

READ MORE: F1 Fantasy – Tips for the Russian GP – plus details on some great new prizes up for grabs

“We just try to work on that and try to make sure it’s not happening again. I think they explained a lot to me but hopefully it won’t happen again…” he continued.

While Russia may be a tough track for Red Bull, Honda have brought in 'countermeasures' to tackle the power unit issue that Verstappen encountered at Mugello – and that should give the Dutchman some reassurance.

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