Christian Horner believes Red Bull face a case of damage limitation over the next two grands prix in Italy and Russia, with the F1 title pendulum set to swing back towards Mercedes.
After heading into the summer break seemingly on the back foot, Red Bull is back in the ascendancy given Max Verstappen's pole performance in Belgium and dominance of his home race in the Netherlands.
Horner, though, feels it will be his team chasing Mercedes at Monza and Sochi as the reigning champions have won five of seven grands prix in the turbo-hybrid era at the 'Temple of Speed' and all seven at the track based around the former winter Olympics site.
"Their car and engine package has always been historically very strong at those two venues and they have been weaker venues for us," assessed Horner.
"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."
"Massively tight" between Red Bull and Mercedes
Asked whether Red Bull had anything up its sleeve in terms of updates to negate the likely damage, or whether it had stopped developing the car and was fully focused on 2022, Horner replied: "Obviously, there is a huge amount of effort going into 2022.
"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."
Verstappen heads into the race at Monza with a slender three-point advantage, while Red Bull is 12 adrift of Mercedes in the constructors' standings.
"It is massively tight, isn't it? suggested Horner.
"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."
What do you think?
The RB Newey cars have always been better at cornering. Merc may have a slight edge on straight line speed but I suspect Horner is under playing his hand. Esp with the apparent power increase that arrived with the new engine "reliability fixes"
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