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Verstappen "eating tyres alive" during Brazil F1 sprint race

Max Verstappen says he was "eating the tyres alive" as he fell from the lead to fourth in Formula 1's Brazilian Grand Prix sprint, and worries that Red Bull won't be able to match Mercedes in the grand prix.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Starting on the medium tyres, Verstappen soon passed shock polesitter Kevin Magnussen, as did the other frontrunners.

But as Saturday's 24-lap sprint race unfolded Verstappen started struggling with tyre wear and saw Russell soon close the gap.

By virtue of Red Bull's superior top speed, the two-time world champion managed to hang on until the halfway point, but on lap 15 Russell finally completed the pass for the lead into Turn 4.

As Sainz soon followed Russell through in Turn 1, the Spaniard made slight contact with Verstappen, damaging the Red Bull's front wing.

That compounded the Dutchman's problems as he slumped to fourth behind Lewis Hamilton, finishing 10 seconds in arrears from Russell, who took his first ever F1 sprint win.

Verstappen conceded Red Bull doesn't have an explanation for the excessive tyre wear on what should have been a more durable compound than the softs that his competitors were using.

"It was just degging, I had no grip from the tyres," Verstappen said. "Somehow the mediums didn't last at all, and we had no pace.

"I was just eating the tyres alive, so I don't know why it was like that. Then with the contact my front wing was a bit damaged, but even with a complete front wing I would have finished fourth."

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, battles with George Russell, Mercedes W13

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, battles with George Russell, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Russell, who will lead out Hamilton on an all-Mercedes front row on Sunday, expects Verstappen will be "flying past" in the actual grand prix.

However, Verstappen believes that even on the same tyre compound Mercedes would have been genuinely quicker in the sprint.

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Starting third due to Sainz' engine penalty, Verstappen thinks it will be not as straightforward to beat the Mercedes cars as his 2022 dominance suggests.

"Even on the soft I think we wouldn't have had that pace that Mercedes had, so that's a little bit worrying for tomorrow," he admitted.

"We definitely will analyse everything but normally there's not so much you can do to make it better."

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