Norris’ McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo recorded an upset win at the last race in Italy after Hamilton and Verstappen crashed. Following that up with another McLaren win in Russia will be tricky.
“Hopefully Lando will give me a nice little slipstream into turn one,” Russell said. “We’ve got to be aiming for the podium. We’ve got nothing to lose and we’re just going to go for it.”
Ricciardo, who qualified fifth, was given a reprimand for impeding Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll during qualifying.
Race stewards noted in a statement that the Australian had taken immediate action as soon as he was aware of the Canadian’s presence on a wet track and with heavy spray reducing visibility.
McLaren had warned Ricciardo, whose Monza win was the team’s first victory since 2012, that teammate Lando Norris was coming up behind him but were unaware that Stroll was doing consecutive fast laps and so said nothing about him. The stewards deemed the situation bordered on “unnecessary impeding” but opted for a reprimand as the most appropriate penalty.
McLaren were given an official warning.
‘These things are sent to try us’
Hamilton set the early pace on intermediate tires, but errors toward the end of the session proved costly. The Mercedes driver bumped the wall while coming into the pits and had to change his front wing, and the long delay meant his new slick tires cooled off. After going out, Hamilton lacked grip and had a spin late in the session.
Hamilton said he was “incredibly disappointed” that he damaged the car and apologised to the team. “These things are sent to try us, and as much as I feel terrible right now, I’ll turn it into a positive and try to do the best we can,” he said.
Hamilton, the defending champion, will be chasing his 100th career win on Sunday at a track where he has won four times in the past, and where Mercedes cars have won all seven F1 races to date. His teammate Valtteri Bottas starts seventh, and Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez is ninth.
Verstappen leads the championship standings by five points from Hamilton but will start from the back of the grid in the race Sunday because he changed his engine. Mindful of the slippery conditions, Verstappen didn’t try to set a time in qualifying.
Verstappen said incidents near the front of the field would play into his hands during the race.
“I try to score points, but I need a bit of help with things going, let’s say, a bit wrong in the front,” he said.
The Dutch driver had complained of a lack of straight-line speed during Friday practice, even against slower cars, which would hamper him in cutting through the field, but said Saturday that was “not fully representative” of how the Red Bull would work in race conditions.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari has a similar penalty, as does Nicholas Latifi of Williams.
AP with Reuters
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