George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Lewis Hamilton may have been victorious at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, but that didn’t stop Max Verstappen from again taking aim at his title rival. Hamilton notched his 100th Grand Prix win following a thrilling conclusion in Sochi, which saw him overtake race leader Lando Norris after heavy rain caused chaos in the closing laps.
Norris, who took his maiden pole position on Saturday, was leading with five laps to go in his McLaren when it started to rain.
It was light initially and Norris and his team gambled by not coming into the pits for treaded intermediate tyres, with Hamilton himself initially ignoring orders and staying out before opting to head in as conditions worsened.
It proved pivotal as the Mercedes man duly caught his fellow British driver, who by this point was struggling to simply stay on the track, and the development also benefitted Verstappen who went from seventh to second having also changed tyres.
Norris, 21, eventually headed for the pits himself after telling his team over radio he couldn’t ‘do this any longer’, but by that point his dream day was scuppered and he ended up seventh.
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However, despite his victory Hamilton, 36, didn’t exactly enjoy a vintage weekend.
He only qualified fourth after clipping the pit wall and damaging his front wing, and following the delay, then spun on the track on his final lap as he pushed to go quicker than Norris. Hamilton later admitted he was ‘incredibly disappointed’ in himself for the mistake, and Verstappen took the chance to stick the boot in.
The Dutch driver, whose second place position represented a superb result after starting at the back of the grid, told reporters: ‘You’ve done the pit entry a few times at that time, so I think you understand how slippery it is.
‘I don’t know what happened. I quickly saw the replay, so I haven’t actually fully been watching it. Of course, it would be better not to make that mistake, but I guess he knows that himself as well.’
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Verstappen was relegated to the back of the grid after opting to change his Honda engine on Friday, and although he now trails Hamilton by two points in the overall standings, it’s a deficit he and Red Bull would have readily accepted beforehand.
The pair have been no strangers to verbal sparring this season, colliding in the British Grand Prix in Silverstone in July, an incident which left the 23-year-old needing hospital treatment. Hamilton was deemed the guilty party that day, but recovered from a 10-second penalty to triumph at his home Grand Prix.
It prompted a bitter war of words as Verstappen scorned his rival for celebrating his win despite the circumstances, and things came to a head again in Monza this month when another tangle between the two ended their race prematurely.
This time however it was Verstappen who was adjudged to have been at fault, and he was handed a three-place grid penalty for Sochi which he then later exacerbated by changing to his fourth engine of the season – deliberately triggering further penalty.
Hamilton, whose halo prevented Verstappen’s car from sickeningly colliding with his head, said afterwards he was just ‘happy to be alive.’
With still seven races to go, the intensity between the pair is only likely to rise further as Hamilton seeks a record breaking eighth World Championship win, with Verstappen after his maiden title.
There is now a two-week gap until the Turkish Grand Prix on Sunday, October 10.
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