Hamilton: We must capitalise on Verstappen’s back-of-grid start

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes must make the most of the opportunity offered by Max Verstappen’s grid penalty at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid after having a new power unit fitted to his car, which meant he exceeded the maximum number of parts he is allowed to use.

Hamilton, who lies five points behind Verstappen at the top of the championship table, said the development “doesn’t really change anything for us” but admitted it gave him a valuable opportunity.

“We’ve just got to do our thing and focus,” he said. “It’s a tough year, I think, for everyone with reliability. That’s definitely a shame for him.

“But we’ve got to try and capitalise on that, get a maximum result. A one-two would be spectacular for us as a team.”

Mercedes headed both of Friday’s practice sessions at Sochi Autodrom. Hamilton, who trailed team mate Valtteri Bottas in both sessions, revealed the pair were running different set-ups on their car.

He said he was encouraged by their day’s work. “It seems like we started off on the right foot,” he said. “We’re always trying to progress.

“The first run in the first session was the best. We’ve been migrating and adjusting since and it’s not been as good as that one as you start to push more and more, I guess.

“But generally a good session pace-wise. We’ve got some work [to do] probably on the long run.”

The forecast of heavy rain tomorrow could complicate the final set-up decision, Hamilton added.

“Tomorrow it’s going to be raining a lot, we heard. It’s going to be a big wet day tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what we do in terms of set-up for that, knowing that potentially Sunday is dry.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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65 comments on “Hamilton: We must capitalise on Verstappen’s back-of-grid start”

  1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    24th September 2021, 15:20

    How much more luck does Hamilton need to win 2021 Championship.
    * Saved twice from retirement or lap down due to red flags
    * 2 podiums scores by Max gone due to sheer bad luck

    Now he starts on front row and Max from the back row where depending how the race unfolds and if and when there are safety cars Max is to finish 3rd at best, but 5th is more likely. Which means Hamilton will leave Russia leading the championship by 10 points with either 5-7 races to go.

    If Hamilton is not leaving Russia as championship leader by a healthy margin than Mercedes really wasted the opportunity like they did in Monza.

    1. You’re expending so much energy on reiterating the past. Most have moved on.

      Monza was wasted because VER refused to back out of a corner he’d lost, nothing to do with HAM (on the day).

      1. Why are you going on about what happened in the past?

        1. Check mate by Balue!! Thank you :)
          Swifty, I hope you learned your lesson and will just let people discuss stuff they want to discuss.

        2. Aye! I’ll give you that one Balue. But play nice, we are all friends here. 😉

    2. @jelle-van-der-meer Choosing to do race on too low running tyre pressures is a risk Red Bull takes themselves though. As is taking an aggressive line defending through a fast corner or chicane.

      Verstappen has had more luck than Hamilton this season. For starters, Verstappen has the fastest car by quite a margin, because the low rake cars have been hurt a lot more by the aero regulation changes. So how’s that for luck? Then Hamilton having an issue with poor button placement losing an otherwise easy win in Baku? Bad luck with the weather call in Hungary (would have been another easy win). etc etc

      1. @f1osaurus If you’re calling having a good car “lucky”, then Hamilton is the luckiest driver in F1 history. Baku was Hamilton’s fault, he himself admits it, everyone in the team admits it was driver error, but clearly you know better than them all. I don’t recall Bottas hitting brake magic and locking up into T1. Hungary was on both team and driver. All drivers except Hamilton made the call to go to slicks. Go listen to the team radios.

        1. @mashiat
          The big mistake you’ve made here is trying to reason with the biggest troll on this website. He’s not particularly interest in the truth, he’s more interested in trying to seek as much attention as possible from Verstappen fans :-)

        2. True enough… Baku and Hungary were Lewis errors. Lewis definitely made the call on the radio to stay out in Mogyorod! VER has been the better driver so far, yet he finds himself only 5 points ahead in the standings. At what point does luck, or bad luck, start being disregarded? The fact remains there is only 5 points in it. The driver that wins the WDC will deserve it.

          1. @deanr

            The driver that wins the WDC will deserve it.

            I would take this sentence more seriously if Hamilton fans did not moan endlessly during and after 2016. They even accused Mercedes of sabotage.

          2. @kingshark

            Good one.

            May the best win.. Or atleast Hamilton, or what is their motto?

          3. Which Hamilton fans say Rosberg didn’t deserve the 2016 WDC? Certainly not this one! Rosberg may not have been the better driver that year but he won it on merit over the course of the year. Points tables never lie!

          4. @deanr

            Baku and Hungary were Lewis errors. Lewis definitely made the call on the radio to stay out in Mogyorod!

            He didn’t make that call. The team did. Baku was a button placement error.

          5. Happy to be corrected but I distinctly recall Lewis making the final call to stay out. The team probably didn’t give him enough information but I do recall Lewis choosing to stay out and the radio conversation being played. My memory isnt infallible mind you.

          6. Thanks for that F1oSaurus! I stand well and truly corrected! It was indeed Mercs call and Lewis even questioned it.
            I wasnt aware you could get full race radio replays for one driver like that. Thanks for the link 👍

        3. @mashiat Well Verstappen didn’t actually help develop the fastest car like Hamilton did. Verstappen has been going nowhere with his car development. He’s lucky that the disadvantageous aero rules for low rake cars have added a second per lap for Mercedes. So Verstappen just lucked into it yes.

      2. Nofanboysplease (@)
        24th September 2021, 18:27

        Well…. Lets start by asking on what basis the RB is quicker by quite a margin? Than luck has nothing to do with high or low rake. After that we will start about the new michelin tires that work much better on the MB. But first…. Explain me the ‘quite margin’

    3. Tainted season. Statistic won’t show, everyone will forget so it won’t matter. But in this moment, we know.

      1. That’s right. It WONT matter. Only the winner will matter.

  2. Probably too simplistic, but I’d take a new PU as well.
    This seems to be the ideal weekend as knowing that you do not need to qualify well allows you to set up the car for a dry race instead of a wet quali.

    1. Logically that doesn’t make sense to me. When your main rival is starting from the back then you know you have a very good chance of winning the race and bagging 25 points. If you have to take a penalty, doesn’t it make more sense to take that penalty on a weekend when your rivals are strong and you are more likely to score maybe 15 or 18 points instead of 25? There is bound to be at least one more race this season where practice shows that Redbull have the advantage over Mercedes, and presuming it happens on a track where overtaking isn’t too difficult, that would seem like a better opportunity for Mercedes to take any penalties.

      1. I agree with your comment, so I don’t understand why you said it doesn’t make sense. Verstappen is specifically taking this penalty on the most favouring track for mercedes of the rest of the calendar.

        1. @esploratore1

          I may have misinterpreted jff’s comment. I thought that since this is an article about Hamilton, they were suggesting that Hamilton should also take the engine change this weekend – as has been discussed elsewhere. But I agree that it makes sense for Verstappen to take the penalty here.

  3. Using this opportunity to maximize points for Hamilton is crucial.

    1. Red Bull must have Perez qualify well tomorrow or Hamilton will only need to beat both McLarens to win.

      1. @greenflag He won’t need to beat either Mclaren as Monza was merely an isolated case raw pace-wise.

        1. @jerejj Saying that, McLaren didn’t have to “qualify” ahead of Hamilton on Friday to beat him on Saturday or Sunday. If Norris qualifies 3rd on grid, there is more than a good chance he’ll get ahead of one or more Mercedes.

          1. @mashiat They only beat him because of his unideal Sprint start.

          2. @jerejj That’s precisely my point. If Lando qualifies 3rd and gets a good start at this track, he can lead into T1 as we’ve seen 3rd is a great starting position. He doesn’t have to outqualify Mercedes to get ahead.

          3. @mashiat Mercedes drivers can block whoever starts P3 if they get a front-row lockout. We shall find out.

          4. @jerejj That depends. They managed to make it work in 2018, but Ferrari couldn’t in 2017 since Bottas just got a better start than both. And Mercedes starts haven’t been great this season.

  4. This is a Message to Valtteri Toto and the fans. Get ready to give way…

    1. Yes I think most fans need to be told that Mercedes have no intention of taking a points advantage away from their lead driver to hand an advantage to the opposition. Although I do wonder whether they will go so far as to throw away WCC points as RB did at Silverstone to protect Max.

      1. The decision to go for fastest lap there didn’t give away any WCC points relative to Mercedes. They took one point away from Mercedes by stealing fastest lap, and gave up one point themselves for what would have been 10th place. So they gave up one point in the WCC (and one point of Perez in WDC) to all their other rivals, but it was neutral to Mercedes in terms of WCC, and one point net gain of Max against Lewis in the WDC.

  5. He’ll win the race from a Mercedes 1-2. Verstappen will only manage 7th. The gap between them will not be recoverable and Sochi will be remembered as the turning point where Mercedes won the championships.

    1. No that was Silverstone and Hungary

      1. @balue Yeah those were bad too. Verstappen should have played it a bit more save in Silverstone. Or not messed up in the corners before he felt the need to aggressively defend a lost position. And he should have had pole in Hungary. A track that perfectly suits the Red Bull car.

        1. You’re a bit weird.

          1. We know that.. He does not :)
            Always be careful when people are handicapped.

          2. Ha! POT – KETTLE – BLACK!

          3. Sorry, your comment was a bit daft but I reported it in error. Was trying to report Erikje… for obvious reasons.

        2. No way, merc was by far faster in quali in hungary, it wasn’t even possible to get 2nd place, let alone pole.

          1. @esploratore1 True, but that was because Verstappen is A) bad at qualifying and B) he messed up the setup for a track where they should have been fastest by a country mile.

      2. Both of you are right. Hamilton will get away with probably his worst season. Judging Perez vs Bottas, Lewis should have binned it before the summer break given the material he has and reputation. Yet he couldnt get past Max until lady luck stepped in to aid and benefit him hugely.

    2. I agree that seems the most likely scenario. But the turning point was Silverstone, where HAM not only knocked VER into a DNF but also caused enough damage to necessitate an engine penalty. A most effective ‘tactical foul’ to use Toto’s term.

      1. That’s what I thought too. But Hungary really signed, sealed and delivered it for Toto’s team.

  6. I just have a really strong feeling that Hamilton’s going to drop it in the wall tomorrow during qualifying (if it takes place). The pressure’s all on him this weekend to maximise points scoring and I can’t help but feel that he’s not coping with that as well as he used to.

    Mercedes haven’t had a clean weekend for ages and there have been very few occasions where they’ve fully taken advantage of Verstappen’s / Red Bull’s mishaps so I’d be quite surprised if they did manage to walk away with a 1-2.

    Unless of course the grid is set based on FP2…

    1. @callmeacynic True Hamilton has made a lot of mistakes this year from the pressure of a close fight, but Bottas has promised he’ll give up his win again here if it comes to that, and with Verstappen at the back, all Hamilton has to do is beat Perez, and the McLarens / Ferraris and that should be a walk in the park.

  7. The Mclarens and Charle’s Ferrari will make things difficult for Max. I can Max relying on tyre strategy to get past them quickly, but these guys will be racing that much harder to overturn Perez for that podium spot.

  8. It’s a tough year, I think, for everyone with reliability. That’s definitely a shame for him.

    This is not reliability but destruction by team Mercedes..

    But the bright side is Mercedes is really suffering in the reliability department. So hammie will need a engine before the last race.

    1. I think Lewis already needs a new engine,because ever since bottas got a new one ,he’s improved..I think Lewis current engine is lacking just a little bit,and that could be the difference.

      1. OR… is Lewis’ engine being run below its capability to ensure he gets to the end of the season? Probably not but you dont know that any better than I do.

  9. Can they let Max drive with Perez helmet for quali so Perez can start 3rd on Sunday? Maybe he could then be rather late at braking into turn 1? Doing a little Bottas?

    1. Good idea, fight fire with fire.

    2. So you think RB should cheat?

  10. I wonder if Valtteri has it in him to do a Rubens in Austria 2002 and brake at the last possible moment to let Lewis through. Although given that we are more than halfway through the season it isn’t really a fair comparison.

  11. This will be Hamilton’s 100th GP win. It would be good to have Verstappen on the podium to witness it. Let’s hope Max has a great race through the field then.

    1. @greenflag If everything goes smoothly then yes it is likely Hamilton’s 100th win. And there’s also a reasonable chance that Bottas will need to be asked to move aside to let him do it. That would sour the celebrations somewhat you’d think.

    2. Well, in order to let Verstappen witness it, Silverstone and Monza should be considered a racing incident by almost everyone.

  12. I love it when front runners start from the back… We get to see somr super Max.

    1. If he can get through the first 3 laps unscathed, perhaps.

  13. Loois punted his front jack man in a pit stop magic button oopsie this morning. If Valtteri got a 3 spot grid penalty for spinning in the pits without hitting anyone, that should be at least a 5 spot penalty.

    Unless Emperor Palpa…… er, Toto emailed Michael and blamed the mistake on the jack man being 2cm forward of where he should have been standing.

    1. Did Hamilton make you cry again? Need a box of Kleenex?

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