Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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With title rival Max Verstappen suffering a grid penalty, the door is open for Lewis Hamilton to secure his unprecedented 100th win in Formula 1 at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. Since winning the British Grand Prix back in July, Hamilton has struggled to reach the century mark.
Hamilton clipped Verstappen and sent the Red Bull crashing out at Silverstone, and it was the Dutchman’s turn to be the protagonist at Monza.
The Briton came out the pits and took the inside line, forcing Verstappen wide as he refused to yield.
His Red Bull bounced aggressively off the kerb and landed on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes, with the seven-time world champion saved from serious injury by the halo.
After Hamilton was able to continue and go on to win after the collision at Silverstone, both drivers were forced to retire at Monza.
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The 36-year-old was left with a neck injury while Verstappen was given a three-place grid penalty ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
With his rival starting in fourth at best, Hamilton has a fine opportunity to make history at the Sochi Autodrom.
In fact, there is more history on the line for Hamilton and Mercedes. Not only is the driver eyeing a record 100 wins – a milestone never reached in Formula 1 – but he is also chasing a record fifth grand prix win in Sochi.
Mercedes have won each race held at the circuit since it was introduced in 2014, with Valtteri Bottas winning two including last year’s edition and former world champion Nico Rosberg coming out on top in 2016.
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This season is proving to be one for the history books in the sense that past performance means little as Red Bull and Verstappen continue to push for the title, although the Dutchman’s efforts this weekend will be difficult as he considers installing a new Honda power unit.
If the 23-year-old opts to do so, he will drop to the back of the grid. Hamilton is in a similar situation, but the reigning champion will likely make the call and take the penalty at a different race in order to press home an advantage this weekend.
Hamilton, who saw a specialist after hurting his neck during the incident at Monza, is expected to recover in time for the race on Sunday – and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff warned that the seven-time world champion is in defiant mood.
“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,” the Austrian said.
“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.”
With tension mounting as the season enters the final stretch, this weekend’s race in Sochi could be particularly pivotal and unpredictable with heavy rain expected.
Hamilton has a record 99 career victories from 280 starts, with 78 wins since he joined Mercedes after leaving McLaren. The Brit has been on the podium 175 times.
Formula 1 returns for the Russian Grand Prix on September 26, with Verstappen holding a slender five-point lead over seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
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