Red Bull Racing are pondering an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) change in Max Verstappen's car to give the Formula 1 title contender added horsepower in the final two races of the 2021 season. The engine change will trigger an automatic five-place grid penalty and former Williams driver Ralf Schumacher feels it is a gamble that could pay off for the Austrian team in their intense title battle with Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton showed the benefit of a fresh ICE when he rocketed to the win at the Brazilian Grand Prix and Mercedes will fit his car with the same power unit at the superfast Jeddah street circuit in Saudi Arabia this weekend. The Silver Arrows are the favourites going into the race, but a fresh power unit could give Red Bull a slight boost to challenge their rivals.

Schumacher feels Verstappen can make up the five-place penalty during the race and at least finish second with the top step of the podium being out of reach at least on paper for the moment. Moreover, it will give the Dutchman a fresher power unit at the final race in Abu Dhabi where the Mercedes and the Red Bull are expected to be evenly matched.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
Side-by-side: Max Verstappen (left) and Lewis Hamilton fight for the lead Robyn Beck/AFP

"At the moment, Mercedes are ahead," the former Williams driver 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'," he added. "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."

Verstappen, who currently leads the championship by eight points, can win his first F1 Drivers' title in Saudi Arabia this weekend. It will require the Dutch racer to win the race and his title rival Hamilton to finish seventh or lower, which is very unlikely owing to the speed of the Mercedes.

The seven-time world champion is the favourite going into the race in Jeddah, but with it being a street circuit and a first for all the drivers on the grid, there is certain to be more than a few surprises. The first practice session gets underway on Friday, with the race being run under the lights on Sunday night.

Max Verstappen
Lewis Hamilton believes Max Verstappen is likely to increase his 12-point lead in the next two F1 races Zak Mauger/POOL