Lewis Hamilton has denied being "furious" with Mercedes over the decision to pull him in for a pit stop late on in Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion had climbed from 11th in the grid to third when called by his team to switch onto intermediate tyres on the wet surface.

Hamilton seemed determined to finish the race on the same tyres, but on lap 51 out of 58 the Briton heeded his team's call and dropped to fifth, where he finished the race.

He made his apparent frustration clear at the time, saying over the team radio: "Why did you give up that place? We shouldn't have come in."

However, Hamilton feels the disagreement has been blown out of proportion, even if he accepts lessons can be learned.

"I've seen some of the press this morning, which has made a bit too much of the incident in yesterday's race of when to pit," he posted on his personal Instagram account.

"It isn't true to say I'm furious with my team. 

"As a team we work hard to build the best strategy possible but as the race progresses you have to make split decisions there are so many factors constantly changing.

"Yesterday we took the risk to stay out hoping it would dry, it didn't. I wanted to risk it and try and go to the end, but it was my call to stay out and it didn't work. 

"In the end we did pit and it was the safest thing to do. We live and we learn. We win and we lose as a team. 

"Don't ever expect me to be all polite and calm on the radio when I'm racing, we are all very passionate and in the heat of the moment that passion can come out, as it does for all drivers.

"My heart and spirit are out there on the track, it's the fire in me that's got me this far but any angst is quickly forgotten and we talked it through, already looking ahead to the next race. 

"Today's another day to rise and as a team. Still we rise."

Hamilton, who qualified fastest but was handed a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change, is now six points behind championship leader Max Verstappen.

Verstappen finished second in Istanbul, with Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas claiming victory, and the Dutchman acknowledges Red Bull have a lot more work to do if he is to claim a first Formula One world title.

"Of course overall I think we have been at tracks that naturally were a bit better for Mercedes, but then this track was a bit unknown, and clearly they were ahead of us," he told Sky Sports.

"I do think we need to step it up a bit to be in the fight until the end of the season."

Max Verstappen regained the lead of the Formula One world championship but the Red Bull star seemingly wanted a tougher test in Turkey.

It was Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas - who had started from pole position after Lewis Hamilton's 10-place grid penalty for an engine change - who triumphed in a damp Istanbul on Sunday.

However, Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez completed the podium, with the former situated inside the top three for much of the race.

In difficult conditions, Verstappen explained how it was too risky to push the tyres early, conceding Bottas' car seemed to have more speed.

Asked what the trickiest part of the race was, Verstappen joked: "To stay awake!"

He added: "No, it was just all about managing the tyres, so you were never pushing to make it to a certain amount of laps and then you'd box for another set, happy to be on the podium."

Bottas, meanwhile, celebrated a first victory of the season.

"I think from my side, I have to say, one of the best races I've had, ever," said the Finn, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the season.

"Apart from one little slide, everything was under control. But like I said before the race, the car has been really good in every condition, I had really good confidence in it, could really control it.

"It's not easy to choose the strategy here with the conditions, when to stop, when to switch tyre and everything, but I'm glad with how everything went.

"When there's only one dry line, it doesn't need much to go off. A difficult one, it feels like a well-earned victory."

Bottas' jubilance was in stark contrast to the frustration of his team-mate Hamilton, who had to settle for fifth place after a late call to pit by Mercedes.

Hamilton is now six points behind Verstappen in the championship race heading into the United States Grand Prix.

"It's been close the whole year and I'm sure again in Austin it’ll be a good battle with Mercedes, so we just have to keep on pushing, keep on trying to improve and then we'll see where we end up at the end," said Verstappen.

"So far this season has been really good."

Lewis Hamilton was left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late during the Turkish Grand Prix, helping Max Verstappen take over the Formula One championship lead in Istanbul.

Hamilton had claimed pole in qualifying but was handed a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change, meaning Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas started in first place.

It was a lead Bottas only relinquished briefly to Charles Leclerc, though the Finn regained it with a brilliant move on the inside of the Ferrari with 11 laps remaining to ensure his first win of the season.

With Verstappen claiming second, it was Hamilton's decision to hold off pitting in the wet conditions that proved crucial in the title race.

Well in the hunt for a podium place at the time, Hamilton was finally instructed to come in by Mercedes on the 51st lap.

Yet the decision to switch to intermediate tyres did not pay off, with Hamilton left furious with his team, stating: "Why did you give up that place?”.

While one half of the Mercedes garage will be left pondering their decision, the other was celebrating a flawless drive from Bottas, who endured a miserable race in Turkey last year.

Behind Bottas, it was a fantastic outing for Red Bull, with Verstappen securing a six-point lead over Hamilton in the championship standings and Sergio Perez completing the podium places.

Hamilton ultimately finished fifth, holding off Gasly but unable to gain ground on Leclerc, who missed out on the top three after pitting late on himself.

Perez and Hamilton do battle

Hamilton thought he had nipped ahead of Perez heading into lap 35, with the pair going wheel-to-wheel for five corners in a fantastic tussle.

Though Hamilton had the faster acceleration, Perez pushed at Turn One to regain the place and even though the Red Bull driver subsequently pitted, he had done enough to keep the seven-time world champion at bay and hand Verstappen a real boost.

Alonso hits out at Gasly

Fernando Alonso made a strong start in Istanbul, but he found himself spinning off the track on the first corner after a clip from Pierre Gasly.

By the time he rectified the situation, Alonso had dropped from fifth to 15th. Gasly, for his part, explained that he got "sandwiched", though the Frenchman was nevertheless handed a five-second penalty that cost him a place in the top five.

Valtteri Bottas will focus on making the most of starting the Turkish Grand Prix from pole position, and not on the fortunes of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas just missed out on setting the fastest time in Istanbul on Saturday, with championship leader Hamilton claiming top spot.

However, Hamilton will start in 11th due to a penalty incurred from an engine change heading into the weekend, meaning Bottas is promoted to first on the grid.

Seven out of the eight winners in Turkey have come from the first grid line, with the only exception coming last year when Hamilton triumphed from sixth place.

Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen will start in second place and has a real chance to regain the championship lead, as he trails by only two points as it stands – the finest margin after 15 races of a season since 2006.

Asked where his priorities would sit heading into Sunday's race, Bottas said: "I'll focus on my own race tomorrow, I think that's the way to go when you're starting in front and try to keep up a good pace."

Of the session, the Finn, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of 2021, said: "It was good. Not easy conditions, especially Q1 was a bit on the edge with damp parts and still Q3, the first corner was a bit damp but also Turn 3 and 4. But also some good laps.

"As a team result, that's really gone to plan. Lewis with his penalty gets the minimum penalty he can, and I'm on pole, so that should be good."

Hamilton is anticipating a tough ask to challenge for a podium place.

"It was a really tricky session in general," Hamilton said.

"There were still some damp patches and getting the temperature in the tyres for the first lap wasn't easy, but a really great job by the team, so happy with the performance in terms of getting us out at the right time. Tomorrow's going to be difficult but I'll give it everything."

Hamilton claimed his 100th race win last time out in Russia, and he added: "It's not the easiest overtaking at the moment, and we're all on the same tyres as well. I imagine tomorrow's going to be difficult to move up. You saw in the last race what happened with Max once he got behind sixth place or something and vice versa for me also.

"We've got the long straight down the back, we'll see what we can do, hopefully we can give the fans here a good race."

Despite spinning off the track at one stage in the session, Charles Leclerc recovered to take P4, and the Ferrari driver will start in third place behind Verstappen, who was pleased with his performance after a difficult Friday practice.

"It was quite tricky at the beginning with the conditions, but compared to yesterday we actually managed to turn it around quite well," said Verstappen. He is hunting his eighth win of the season, which would also see him equal Nigel Mansell as the driver with the second most victories with a Honda engine (13), behind the late Ayrton Senna (32).

"The laps overall were quite good, even if we lost a bit down the straight on the last, we have to look into that, but of course it was not the lap I needed to fight for pole," Verstappen added.

"Overall I'm very happy. We'll try to pick up as many points as we can."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:22:868 *
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0:130
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:328
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:397
5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0:458
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0:609
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0:838
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:086
9. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1:437
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1:500

*Hamilton will serve 10-place grid penalty

Max Verstappen insists he is not under any pressure to win the Formula One title this season as the Red Bull driver does not believe it will change his life.

The Dutchman trails Lewis Hamilton by two points after 15 races – the smallest margin between the top two at this point since 2006 when Fernando Alonso scrapped it out with Michael Schumacher.

Verstappen recovered from the back of the grid to finish second to seven-time world champion Hamilton in Russia two weeks ago and is seeking his eighth race victory of 2021 at Istanbul Park on Sunday.

Hamilton previously suggested Verstappen would be feeling the pressure as the title race hots up, but the 24-year-old has stressed that is not the case as finishing second would still be an achievement in its own right.

"I always do my best and I know that the team is also doing the best they can," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

"And if that's going to be first at the end of the year – that's of course an amazing achievement and that's what we work for, right?

"But, even if we would finish second, I think we'd still have had a great season. And at the end of the day it's not really going to change my life.

"I mean, I enjoy what I'm doing, and I think that's also very important. For me, there is not much to worry about really."

Verstappen started from the back of the grid in Russia after Red Bull opted to have a new engine installed.

Hamilton may face a similar handicap this weekend as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff revealed a fourth engine of the season could be fitted to the Briton's car.

That would take the championship leader over the permitted allowance and leave him starting at the back of the grid, but Verstappen will only focus on his own race regardless of where his rival is positioned.

"At the end of the day, I can't control what they're doing," he told Sky Sports. 

"It's more important to focus on ourselves and then try to get the best out of that and try to score as many points as possible every single weekend. And, of course, I will try to do that again."

With eight wins this year, Red Bull are one victory away from equalling their third-best season (nine in 2010). 

They have only surpassed that in 2011 (12) and 2013 (13), while they have already matched their best total of pole positions (eight) with seven more races in the calendar.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will renew their thrilling Formula One world title battle at the Turkish Grand Prix this week.

The Mercedes driver leads his Red Bull rival by two points, the smallest margin between the top two after 15 races since 2006, when Fernando Alonso had the same narrow lead in his famous scrap with Michael Schumacher.

This week will mark five years since Nico Rosberg claimed his last pole position and race victory. 

He is the last person other than Hamilton to win the drivers' championship, but the Briton knows he still has much more work to do if he is to stop Verstappen from ending that run with seven races to go.

The latest instalment of the rivalry will take place at Istanbul Park in an event which returned to the F1 calendar after a nine-year absence last year.

Verstappen is looking to win his eighth race of 2021. Apart from when Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in 2016, every other driver who has won that amount of races has gone on to be crowned champion.
 

LAST TIME OUT

It was an incredible race in Russia, with Hamilton ultimately claiming his 100th Formula One victory, having failed in his previous four attempts to reach the milestone.

Lando Norris had secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, but he spun off the track with three laps to go after opting not to pit for new tyres as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and McLaren were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish after coming so close to following up team-mate Daniel Ricciardo's win in Italy with one of his own.

The drama in front meant Verstappen made up important ground to finish second, an unlikely bonus after he started from the back of the grid when Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Carlos Sainz claimed the final spot on the podium, with Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Alonso rounding out the top six.
 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN TURKEY

Turkey is one of just four out of 34 F1 venues where Hamilton is yet to claim a pole position, but he has won here twice, including a famous win in the wet last year that clinched his seventh championship.

His chances of repeating the feat this week may depend on whether he opts to receive a grid penalty for taking a new power unit, which Toto Wolff has suggested could be a possibility.

Should Hamilton triumph, he will equal Felipe Massa's F1 record of three victories in Turkey.

But there are other teams getting involved at the front which could provide an added complication to the championship contenders.

McLaren won in Monza and almost repeated the feat in Russia, with they and Ferrari – who have recently introduced an upgraded power unit with a new hybrid system - picking up some impressive results.

Having served his penalty and impressively limited the damage last time out, though, it is Verstappen who goes into the race weekend as narrow favourite for victory.
 

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Grid position key - Seven out of eight winners in Turkey have come from the first row of the grid, with the only exception last year when Hamilton won from sixth place. Only in Germany three years ago has the Brit recorded a F1 victory from a worse starting position (14th).

Fine track for Ferrari – The Italian team have won most races in Turkey (three), achieved eight podiums, set three fastest laps and taken three pole positions.

Red Bull run – With eight wins this year, the team are one victory away from equalling their third-best season (nine in 2010). They have only surpassed that in 2011 (12) and 2013 (13), while they have already matched their best total of pole positions (eight).

McLaren impress – Having set two straight fastest laps (Ricciardo in Italy and Norris in Russia), the team could set three in a row for the first time since 2011 when Hamilton and Jenson Button were their drivers.

Hamilton could level up – If the seven-time world champion wins without being on pole, he will equal up his record of wins to pole at 101 for each category –  this would be the first time they have been the same since 2007, when he went 2-2 at the United States Grand Prix.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

Max Verstappen believes Red Bull made a perfect call to switch tyres as he went from last on the grid to finish second at the Russian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 100th Formula One triumph in Sunday's race in Sochi, the reigning world champion passing Lando Norris, who saw his chances of clinching victory from his maiden pole slip away when he lost control in the rain with just three laps to go.

Hamilton's win moves him ahead of Verstappen in the championship standings, but the Dutchman ensured the gap is only two points as he charged up to second.

Verstappen had started at the back of the grid after Red Bull installed a new engine to his car, though he said the key to his podium finish was a decision to switch to intermediate tyres as the rain closed in.

"I'm super happy of course to be second," Verstappen said.

"If you would have told me this morning that I would come second today, I wouldn't believe you. But luckily the call to go from the slicks to the inters was the perfect one I think, the right lap. Super pleased for this.

"When the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box, because the lap before, probably if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track.

"So to basically go from seventh to second for us was an amazing result."

Reflecting on what Hamilton's landmark win means for the title race, Verstappen added: "It could of course have been a lot worse in terms of how many points I would lose.

"Especially also with the conditions, it's already very hard to pass. But then also today because of track conditions and whatever, the tyres were graining a lot, so you also couldn't really push or stay close to someone. All in all to come away with second here was, of course, very important."

Norris, meanwhile, was left to lament his misfortune as the win slipped from his grasp.

"I don't know where to start," said Norris, who ultimately finished seventh and took responsibility for the decision not to switch to intermediate tyres.

"Obviously unhappy, devastated in a way. I guess we made a call to stay out; we stand by that call but it was the wrong one at the end of the day.

"I made a decision just as much as the team. In fact, it was more they thought I should box and I decided to stay out. So, my decision – I thought it was the way to go.

"I think I had the confidence beforehand. I knew I was capable of doing it, I've felt capable of doing it for a while so I don't think that’s really changed. Just a bit of heartbreak.

"I felt like I did everything I could, even when it got tricky at the end."

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes still have their work cut out to beat Max Verstappen and Red Bull, despite the victory in an eventful Russian Grand Prix that took him back to the top of the Formula One standings.

Reigning title-holder Hamilton leads Verstappen in the drivers' championship by two points after claiming his 100th F1 triumph in Sochi.

Hamilton passed McLaren's Lando Norris, who was eyeing a maiden victory from pole position, to become the first driver to reach a century of wins.

Norris spun off the track while leading with three laps to go as rain caused late havoc, Hamilton's British compatriot finishing seventh as Verstappen was able to secure second place having started at the back of the grid.

"What a race the weather provided. It's taken a long time to get to 100, and I wasn't sure it would come," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

"Lando did such an amazing job, he had incredible pace and is doing such a great job for McLaren. It was bittersweet to see my old team ahead, and they're doing fantastically."

Hamilton made amends having been disappointed with a qualifying performance that saw him start fourth on the grid, though he remains naturally wary of the threat posed by Verstappen.

"Going to bed last night I was not the happiest with the job I did yesterday," Hamilton said.

"I watched the replay and they were subtle mistakes but not ideal. I was so determined when I woke up this morning, and I was determined to just do the best job I could. I lost a lot of ground at the start trying to stay out of trouble.

"Max must have done a really great job to come up to second from last. We've got our work cut out.

"It would have been tough to get past Lando unless we came up to some traffic or he made a mistake, which he hasn't been doing, so then the rain came and it was very opportunistic."

Lewis Hamilton collected his 100th Formula One victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday after pipping Lando Norris to top spot.

Norris, who secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, spun off the track with three laps to go as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and sneak into a late lead to secure his century of race victories, the first F1 driver to achieve such a haul.

McLaren, who collected their first win since 2012 at the Italian Grand Prix last time out, were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish, with Max Verstappen making important ground to finish second.

Verstappen, who led the championship going into the race, had started from the back of the grid after Red Bull had a new engine installed, but he magnificently recovered to make the podium and ensure Hamilton moves into just a two-point lead.

Carlos Sainz took the lead on the first corner, with Norris, George Russell and Lance Stroll in close company.

Daniel Ricciardo, who would eventually settle for fourth, was back in fifth as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso looked to make ground on the McLaren man who was the shock Monza winner.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was climbing slowly up the grid as he overtook Valtteri Bottas and then Charles Leclerc, moving ominously through the field.

Norris' pole position looked to be paying off when Alonso and Perez had to pit, giving the 21-year-old the lead with 16 laps to go.

He had Hamilton in close company four laps later, and it appeared to be a two-car battle as the Englishmen jostled for first place.

Hamilton took the lead 11 laps later and went on to win as Norris spun out, with Verstappen coasting to his podium placing after making the smart decision to put the intermediate tyres on early.


Mercedes magic

Mercedes made the early decision to put on the inters as their rain radar suggested the wet weather was going to come before the finale.

With others choosing to stick out there and get through it, Hamilton surged into a late lead as Norris' tyres failed him, while Bottas climbed up from 17th on the grid to finish fifth to prove the Mercedes team's decision was an excellent one.

McLaren mistake

A visibly upset Norris addressed the television cameras after the race in Sochi but stood by the decision to stay out there.

The Briton battled to pole position in the adverse conditions the previous day but, for as long as Norris remains without a race win, this will resemble a missed opportunity for him and for McLaren to collect back-to-back wins after their success in Monza.


IN THE POINTS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +53.271
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1:02.475
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1:05.607
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1:07.533
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1:21.321
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1:27.224
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1:28.955
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:30.076
10. George Russell (Williams) 1:40.551

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

WHAT'S NEXT?

There is another two-week gap until the next race, which is the rearranged Turkish Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen faces a battle to retain his lead in the Formula One world championship standings after being relegated to the back of the grid for the Russian Grand Prix.

Red Bull have opted to install a fourth engine of the season in the Dutchman's car ahead of the race at the Sochi circuit, meaning Verstappen must take a grid penalty.

Verstappen, who leads reigning champion Lewis Hamilton by just five points, had a three-place grid sanction hanging over him following his part in a collision with his Mercedes rival in Italy.

The news is a reprieve for Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who had been demoted to the rear of the grid after the Scuderia chose to debut a new power unit this weekend.

Verstappen finished second in Russia last year, when Valtteri Bottas took the honours and team-mate Hamilton was third.

The 23-year-old has claimed seven race wins this season, with Hamilton on four.

Max Verstappen joked he "can barely sleep" after Lewis Hamilton suggested his title rival might be feeling the pressure as he fights for a maiden world championship crown.

Red Bull driver Verstappen leads Hamilton by five points ahead of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, where he will serve a three-place grid penalty after colliding with the Mercedes man at Monza two weeks ago.

This is the closest the top two have been after 14 races since the 2016 battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg (two points).

While Verstappen is seeking his first title in what is his seventh season in Formula One, Hamilton has finished top on seven occasions, the first of those triumphs coming in 2008.

The Briton was involved in a tense battle while with McLaren the previous year and, reflecting on that experience, believes he knows exactly what Verstappen is feeling right now.

"Obviously he won't admit to it, and I'm not going to make an assumption, but I'm just saying I remember what it was like battling for my first championship," he said on Thursday.

"The pressure definitely mounted up. It was difficult. It was intense. I was going through a lot of different emotions and I didn't always handle it the best and that's to be expected.

"I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences, so I can empathise with that.

"I do believe that he will continue to get stronger, and I'm hopeful we won't have any more incidences like last time through the rest of the year.

"I never expect a driver to back down. What's important is that we just continue to race hard and fair, and I have no doubts that we will both be professional and learn from the past."

 

However, when those comments were relayed back to championship leader Verstappen, the Dutchman offered a sarcastic response.

"I'm so nervous I can barely sleep. It's so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it," he said.

"Those comments just show that he really doesn't know me. Which is fine. I also don't need to know him.

"I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there at the front, and hopefully we can do that for a very long time.

"I am very chilled. It is the best feeling ever to have a car, a great car, where you can go into every weekend and you can fight for a win."

Mercedes have triumphed at Monza every year since 2014 – no team has won more races at a single grand prix without failing – and Hamilton has the chance to reclaim the title lead should that be the case again this weekend.

"It's very, very important, as important as it can be," Hamilton said. 

Lewis Hamilton is hanging on in the Formula One title race, but Mercedes are now ready to attack the 2021 run-in.

Seven-time champion Hamilton, chasing a record eighth crown, made a stunning start to the season, with three wins and a second-placed finish from the first four races.

In the 10 grands prix since, though, the Briton has taken the top spot of the podium just once, leaving him still waiting on his 100th win after a four-race drought.

Hamilton still entered the mid-season break with the championship lead, but a brutal triple-header saw him slip behind Max Verstappen, who recorded back-to-back triumphs before taking points in the sprint race at Monza, despite then crashing out alongside his rival.

Clashes between the pair have been frequent this year, but a short break before Sunday's Russian Grand Prix has allowed the contenders to focus again.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said ahead of Sochi: "Our aim is to pull together a strong weekend, starting in FP1 and building one session at a time.

"Lewis is in the 10th championship battle of his F1 career, and he is laser focused on what he needs to deliver in the next eight races.

"As for Valtteri [Bottas], he's driving better than ever, like we saw in Monza – and he will be flat out every weekend.

"There's a calm determination about the team right now and the business end of a season, fighting for championships, is exactly what we enjoy the most."

Mercedes still lead the constructors' championship ahead of Red Bull.

LAST TIME OUT

Neither Verstappen nor Hamilton finished in Italy after a remarkable crash that saw the Dutchman's car land on top of his rival's halo.

Both drivers were forced to retire, with Hamilton telling of how he was "so grateful I am still here" and "incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me".

"I don't think I've ever been hit on the head by a car before," he said. "And it is quite a big shock for me."

With the two leading men ruled out, McLaren capitalised with a stunning one-two – their first since the 2010 Canadian GP.

Having just slipped behind rivals Ferrari in the standings, it was a huge result for the British outfit, as they moved back up to third.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN RUSSIA

It will be interesting to see how Verstappen and Hamilton approach this race, surely keen to avoid a repeat of Monza but also unable to risk taking their foot of the pedal in this tense tussle.

Mercedes have won every previous Russian GP, although they have been the outstanding team in each of those seasons. Now they face a real challenge.

The battle between McLaren and Ferrari is just as tense, although Bottas is maintaining a gap to Lando Norris after finishing third twice.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Mercedes dominant – With four wins for Hamilton, two for Bottas and one for Nico Rosberg, Mercedes have a 100 per cent record in Sochi. No team have won more races at a single grand prix without failing.

Hamilton at home – Hamilton has reached the podium in seven of his seven entries, registering a record four wins. His worst result was fourth in 2017.

Bottas from behind – Five of the seven winners have started on the front row, with Bottas' two victories after qualifying third the exceptions.

Ferrari frustration – Only in Abu Dhabi (12) have Ferrari made more appearances without winning ever than in Russia (seven). They have had two pole positions, two fastest laps and six podiums.

Tight at the top – The gap of five points between Verstappen and Hamilton is the closest the top two have been after 14 races since the 2016 battle between Hamilton and Rosberg (two points).

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 226.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 221.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 141
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 132
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 118

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 362.5
2. Red Bull – 344.5
3. McLaren – 215
4. Ferrari – 201.5
5. Alpine – 95

Lewis Hamilton was "so grateful" to be alive after he came out of a crash with Max Verstappen unscathed.

The Formula One championship rivals collided midway through Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which was won by Daniel Ricciardo.

Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix following the collision, with his Red Bull having become airborne after he went over the kerbs while trying to go down the inside of Hamilton at turn two.

The Red Bull went over the top of Hamilton's Mercedes but, thankfully, the halo protection device, which sits above the driver's head, took the blow, protecting the world champion.

Hamilton confirmed he would have to receive medical attention ahead of the next race but came away complaining only of soreness and a slight pain in his neck.

"I feel very fortunate today," Hamilton told reporters. "Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.

"I am so grateful I am still here. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today. I don't think I've ever been hit on the head by a car before - and it is quite a big shock for me.

"We are taking risks and it's only when you experience something like that that you get the real shock of how you look at life and how fragile we all are.

"If you look at the images of the crash, my head is really quite far forward in the cockpit."

Hamilton also tweeted to his official account, writing: "It's days like today, I am reminded of how lucky I am.

"It takes a millisecond to go from racing to a very scary situation. Today someone must have been looking down, watching over me! #TeamLH: I'm so thankful for each and everyone of you, you are truly the best. Still we rise!"

Max Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix following his collision with Lewis Hamilton at Monza on Sunday. 

The Formula One title rivals crashed at turn two during the Italian Grand Prix, with the Red Bull becoming airborne after Verstappen went over the kerbs while trying to go down the inside. 

The Dutchman's car landed on top of Hamilton's and they both ended up beached in the gravel, with Daniel Ricciardo going on to win the race as part of a famous McLaren one-two. 

Verstappen protested that he was not left sufficient space by Hamilton, while Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused the Red Bull driver of committing a "tactical foul".

Race stewards investigated the incident after the chequered flag and deemed that Verstappen – whose hopes of winning had seemingly evaporated with a botched pitstop – was guilty of causing the collision that ended both their races.

A statement read: "The stewards heard from the driver of Car 33 (Max Verstappen), the driver of Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton) and team representatives, reviewed the video evidence and determined that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the collision with Car 44 at turn two.

"Car 44 was exiting the pits. Car 33 was on the main straight. At the 50m board before turn one, Car 44 was significantly ahead of Car 33. Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44.

"During the hearing the driver of Car 33 asserted that the cause of the incident was the driver of Car 44 opening the steering after turn one and 'squeezing' him to the apex of turn two. The driver of Car 44 asserted that the driver of Car 33 attempted to pass very late and should have given up the corner either by backing off sooner, or by turning left behind the kerb.

"The Stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb. But further, the Stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into turn one. In the opinion of the Stewards, this manoeuvre was attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 to have 'the right to racing room'.

"While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the Stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.

"In coming to the penalty the Stewards emphasise that they have only considered the incident itself and not the consequences thereof.

"Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described Lewis Hamilton's crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix as a "tactical foul" by the Red Bull driver.

The drivers' championship front-runners collided at Monza, having also come together at the British Grand Prix, forcing both to retire from the race.

After labouring behind eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo, who led a McLaren one-two, Verstappen's hopes of victory were seemingly dashed with a pit stop that saw him stationary for 11.1 seconds.

Hamilton then emerged from his pit stop at the start of lap 26 alongside Verstappen, who attempted to sneak down the inside at turn two, only to catch the kerbs and send his car airborne before it landed on top of the Mercedes, with both ending up in the gravel trap.

Having come second in the sprint race, Verstappen extended his championship lead by two points. He now holds a five-point advantage.

The incident is the subject of a stewards' investigation, but Wolff indicated he believes the blame lies with the Dutchman.

"The stewards are going to decide who is to blame. There is predominantly to blame, I guess, we've seen that in the past. I think in football you'd say it was a tactical foul," Wolff told Sky Sports. 

"He probably knew that if Lewis stays ahead, that is the race win possibly.

"I think when you look at turn four, Lewis backed out and that was quite a thing because probably you know he's staying ahead of you. And then incidents where they actually crash, it was clear for Max in there that they would crash.

"I think if we don't manage that in the right way, this is going to continue. They had a high-speed crash at Silverstone, we had one car ending on top of the other one on Lewis' head here, so how far can you go? Maybe next time we'll have a high-speed crash and land on each other."

Hamilton added: "I was racing as hard as I could, finally got past Lando [Norris], I was in the lead so they pitted me, pit-stop was obviously slow, lost a couple of seconds.

"I came out, saw that Daniel came past, Max was coming, I made sure I let a car's width on the outside to him. I went into Turn 1 and I was ahead, I was ahead going into turn two, then all of a sudden he was on top of me."

Asked if Verstappen could have backed out of the corner, Hamilton replied: "Absolutely. Exactly the same scenario that happened in turn four, where I went around the outside, I was in exactly the same position, but I gave way. And that's racing.

"He just didn't want to give way today, he knew when he was going into turn two what was going to happen, he knew he was going over the kerb but still did it. We'll speak to the stewards and we'll see."

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