World Championship leader Max Verstappen, who defends Hamilton by a five-point lead, put on a new engine after finishing third in third place on Friday and finished sixth in the second practice. Due to the engine change, he will start the Sunday race from the end of the starting field. The Dutchman originally had to lose three places in the starting order after Saturday’s qualification due to an accident from the last Italian GP. Charles Leclerc of Ferrari also deployed the new power unit.
Hamilton has a great chance. “Lewis is directly laser-focused to achieve everything he needs in the remaining eight events of the season,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
It is the circuit in Sochi, where the race takes place in the area of the former Olympic Park from the 2014 Winter Games, that suits Hamilton and Mercedes the most. The British rider is the most successful pilot on the track with four wins. The silver arrows then had winners in all seven races so far.
No such team has succeeded anywhere in history. “We would like to follow up, but we know that a completely different challenge awaits us this year. It will be a very intense weekend,” Wolff expects.
Neither Red Bull nor Verstappen have yet won or gained pole position in the Black Sea resort.