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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists that Lewis Hamilton is “laser-focused” this season, despite two huge accidents with his main title rival Max Verstappen in the past five races. Both drivers have been involved in potentially harmful accidents this season after tangling together, with Verstappen hospitalised after their crash at the British Grand Prix, and Hamilton left praising the halo for saving his life during the Italian Grand Prix.
Both have picked up hefty penalties, however, with Hamilton handed a 10-second time penalty for the crash at Silverstone and Verstappen receiving a three-place grid drop for causing a collision at Monza – yet, with a penalty apiece, Wolff was adamant the seven-time world champion hasn’t been deterred from his mission of an eighth world title.
“After a demanding and intense triple-header, we are re-energised and ready to go. Last time out in Monza was bittersweet – a commanding performance and strong result for Valtteri but a feeling of missed points for Lewis, who had the potential to fight for the win,” he said.
“The pleasing thing is that the W12 looks competitive and with just eight races to go, now is the time to use our experience and focus on the details and processes which will get us over the line.
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Hamilton was marred with a penalty in 2020 at the Russian Grand Prix after being given a 10-second penalty for doing two illegal practice starts over the weekend.
However, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas snatched the win from Max Verstappen, who scored Red Bull’s first-ever podium at Sochi, with Hamilton finishing third.
“We’re looking forward to racing again in Russia, it is a circuit we’ve gone well at over the years and both our drivers have enjoyed great results in Sochi,” continued Wolff.
“We’re hoping to continue our run of success in Russia but know that this year is an entirely different beast, and we’re expecting another intense weekend.
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“Our aim is to pull together a strong weekend, starting in FP1 and building one session at a time.
“Lewis is in the tenth 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, 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.”
Verstappen can’t start higher than fourth on Sunday as he looks to extend his lead at the top of the standings, once he serves his penalty for causing a collision.
However, the Dutchman was left questioning the stewards’ decision after the Italian Grand Prix.
“I don’t fully agree with the penalty as I believe it was a racing incident,” said Verstappen. “It’s very unfortunate what happened today but we are both professionals and so we will move on.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was also disappointed with the decision but accepted the verdict.
“We are disappointed with the three-place grid penalty, but accept the stewards’ decision,” said Horner. “We felt what happened between Max and Lewis was a genuine racing incident.
“You can argue for both sides but ultimately it’s frustrating and disappointing to see both cars out of the race in what is proving to be an exciting championship.
“The main thing is that the halo ultimately did its job and certainly this isn’t the way we intended to finish the race.”
Verstappen still leads the way by five points over Hamilton in the driver standings with Mercedes taking an 18-point lead over Red Bull heading into the Russian Grand Prix.
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