(Reuters) – Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen calmed fears he might have to take an engine penalty for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
“We haven’t really decided yet where to take it,” the Red Bull driver told reporters at Monza on Thursday when asked about a likely grid drop.
“This engine is still very new, so we’ll see. It’s definitely not the plan yet to take it here.”
The Dutch 23-year-old damaged one of his allotted three engines in a crash at Silverstone in July after colliding with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton and is expected to have to use a fourth before the end of the season.
That would bring an automatic 10-place drop.
High-speed Monza is generally a good place to take such a hit, with plenty of slipstreaming and overtaking, but Red Bull have struggled against Mercedes there in recent years.
This weekend is also being run to a new format with a Saturday sprint qualifying race that also brings bonus points for the top three.
Verstappen is three points clear of Hamilton after winning his home race at Zandvoort last weekend, his seventh victory in 13 races.
He said his car would be more competitive at Monza than previous years but warned that might not be enough at a track where Mercedes have won five of the last seven races, albeit not the most recent two.
“I’m not sure if it’s going to be enough to fight them,” said Verstappen.
“Nevertheless, this weekend with sprint qualifying and stuff, it’s going to be very different so I just hope that, yeah, we did our homework before getting here and we can be very competitive. It’s a bit difficult to say where we will stand
“I definitely don’t expect it to be like Zandvoort.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)