Lewis Hamilton started the Russian Grand Prix from fourth place, but after the first lap he found himself back in seventh place after putting on the brakes with Max Verstappen in mind.
It was a spectacular start last weekend in Russia. On the way to turn two, the first corner that requires braking at the Sochi Autodrom, seven drivers battled for the first places. Lewis Hamilton seemed to be doing good business from fourth place in Lando Norris’ slipstream, but in the crowds he didn’t dare to push on.
In the usual debrief from Mercedes, a few days after the race weekend, Technical Director Mike Elliot explains why Hamilton did not take any risks with Max Verstappen in mind. “If you look at the start, where Lewis started from the dirty side of the track, he actually made a really good start.”
“He made up spots and made his way through the field until he hit Norris’ tail. He moved in Hamilton’s path, blocking Lewis. We think Lando was also involved with derating (he no longer got any power from the hybrid parts, so he had less horsepower at his disposal). As a result, the speed difference was high and Lewis came close very quickly.”
And so Hamilton had to make a quick decision. To take a risk or not, Elliott explains. “As a result, Lewis was a split second had to make a decision. Will he try to fight and go for the inside line, or will he put on the brakes so he doesn’t get involved in an eventual incident?”
That choice was made quickly for Lewis, because Verstappen was miles behind him. “You have to understand, of course, that Lewis’ biggest rival in the battle for the world title is at the very back, so he had to make the right decision quickly. And the right decision was to make sure he wouldn’t get involved in an incident.” said the Technical Director of Mercedes.