Mercedes head to Russia excited for run-in despite Hamilton drought

By Sports Desk September 22, 2021

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

Related items

  • Medvedev battles into French Open second round after Koepfer triumph Medvedev battles into French Open second round after Koepfer triumph

    Daniil Medvedev staved off a Dominik Koepfer fightback to record a battling victory in the French Open first round on Monday.

    The world number five raced out the blocks on Court Simonne-Mathieu and eventually triumphed 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-3 in Paris.

    Medvedev, a five-time major runner-up and 2021 US Open champion, broke Koepfer's first service game in the French capital with that a seeming sign of things to come.

    Though the 28-year-old dropped his serve in the first set, Medvedev had little trouble in responding with the score finely poised at 3-2 to claim first blood at Roland-Garros.

    The fifth seed has only ever gone as far as the quarter-finals, three years ago, at the French Open but showed his clinical best to snatch the second set after holding all six service games for a narrow triumph.

    World number 65 Koepfer battled back in the third but the resilient Medvedev responded by breaking his German opponent early in the fourth set, finally securing victory in just over three hours.

    Data Debrief: Medvedev gets better of Koepfer again

    Medvedev has won all four of his meetings with Koepfer, with his most recent such victory seeing him reach the second round at Roland-Garros for the third time in eight attempts.

    Since the start of the 2021 season, Medvedev is 27-1 against players ranked outside the top 50 at major events, with his only loss in that run coming against Seyboth Wild in the French Open first round last year.

    Koepfer, meanwhile, extends to 1-17 against top-10 players in his career, earning his only such victory against over Gael Monfils – then ranked ninth in the world – at the 2020 ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome.

  • Al-Nassr 4-2 Al-Ittihad: Ronaldo breaks Saudi Pro League scoring record in final-day win Al-Nassr 4-2 Al-Ittihad: Ronaldo breaks Saudi Pro League scoring record in final-day win

    Cristiano Ronaldo claimed a piece of Saudi Pro League history after scoring twice in Al-Nassr's 4-2 final-day victory over 10-man Al-Ittihad on Monday.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was on target in either half at Al Awal Park, moving to 35 goals across the 2023-24 league campaign in Saudi Arabia.

    Ronaldo opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time after receiving a long ball from Mohammed Al-Fatil, before doubling his tally – and Al-Nassr's lead – with a header from Marcelo Brozovic's corner.

    That second finish after Suwailem Al Manhali was dismissed for the visitors saw Ronaldo eclipse Abderrazak Hamdallah's 34-goal tally – in the 2018-19 season – for the most strikes in a single campaign.

    Abdulrahman Ghareeb then added another from the penalty spot before Meshari Al Nemer made sure of three points after late goals from Farhah Al Shamrani and Fabinho had pulled Al-Ittihad back into contention.

    Having already been unable to stop Al-Hilal secure the title, Al-Nassr finish second in the table – ending on 82 points after 26 wins from the 34-match campaign.

    Data Debrief: Al-Nassr dominance pays off

    Much will be made of the record-breaking Ronaldo, who has scored 50 goals in as many games across all competitions this season.

    Yet Al-Nassr were dominant from the off in this one, mustering nine shots on target to Al-Ittihad's three, while accumulating 2.73 expected goals (xG) – far superior to the visitors' 1.43 xG.

  • Sakkari crashes out in French Open first round after Gracheva upset Sakkari crashes out in French Open first round after Gracheva upset

    Varvara Gracheva produced an eye-catching upset after sending Maria Sakkari crashing out of the French Open on Monday.

    World number 88 Gracheva battled to a 3-6 6-4 6-3 victory on Court Simonne-Mathieu, claiming a notable Roland-Garros scalp in the first round.

    Gracheva clinched five of six break points in an impressive fightback after falling a set down in Paris to sixth seed Sakkari.

    Her reward will be a second-round meeting with Bernarda Pera, who overcame Japan's Nao Hibino in straight sets on the same day.

    Data Debrief: Gracheva earns top-10 scalp

    Gracheva will be bidding to make the third round in Paris for the third time in her career after Sakkari became the first big-name exit in the women's draw.

    This victory against world number eight Sakkari marked Gracheva's fourth top-10 win in her career, and second win against such opponents in major events.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.