Lewis Hamilton sets Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes target after Max Verstappen Sochi penalty

George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes need to “capitalise” at the Russian Grand Prix when championship leader Max Verstappen starts from the back of the grid on Sunday.

Verstappen was forced to take a fourth power unit after a huge shunt with his main title rival at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July.

The Dutchman already had a three-place grid penalty coming into the weekend for causing a collision with Hamilton last time out at the Italian Grand Prix.

Speaking after the second practice session on Friday afternoon, Hamilton said the set-up at Mercedes will remain unchanged, despite Verstappen’s penalty.

“Doesn’t really change anything for us, we’ve just got to do our thing, focus on moving forwards,” said Hamilton.

“It’s a tough year I think for everyone with reliability so it’s definitely a shame for him, but we’ve got to try and capitalise on that naturally, and try to get maximum results.

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“A one-two would be spectacular for us a team.”

Hamilton was second fastest in Sochi over first and second practice behind his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who recently announced he would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

However, heavy rain is expected for qualifying on Saturday, meaning teams had to run slightly different setups on Friday in case the session was cancelled.

“Seems like we started off on the right foot, I think as we’re always trying to progress, the first run in the first session, and we’ve been migrating and adjusting since, and it’s not been as good as that one – I just started to push more and more,” added Hamilton.

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“Generally a good session pace-wise, we’ve got some work to do probably on our long run.

“And then tomorrow is probably going to be raining a lot, so it’s going to be a 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.”

If final practice and qualifying is cancelled tomorrow, the FIA may take the fastest time from FP2 to determine the grid on Sunday – meaning Hamilton would start second.

When asked if Mercedes had made all the final checks for such a scenario, Hamilton responded: “Yes, I think we definitely ticked off as much as we could through the sessions, very clean sessions, no issues.

“We made the changes we wanted, the car’s probably not perfect but we’ll work on it tonight.

“Set-up, me and Valtteri are quite different on set-up deliberately – we’ve gone in different ways to try and see which is best, so tonight we’ll probably try and understand, study those and figure out how to come back to the right path.”

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