Mercedes Technical Director Explains How Verstappen Influenced Lewis Hamilton’s Poor F1 Start in Sochi

Published 09/30/2021, 1:53 PM EDT
Formula One F1 – British Grand Prix – Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain – July 18, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen before the race Pool via REUTERS/Lars Baron


Lewis Hamilton won his 100th race in Formula One last weekend in Sochi. He became the first driver in the sport’s history to reach this milestone. But it was not all plain sailing for the seven-time world champion.

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Hamilton started the race from P4 after messing up his final run in Q3. Although he got a good launch, he could not capitalize on it and fell down the order to P7. Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott recently disclosed the reason why Lewis lost so many positions at the start.

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Mike Elliott explains the Mercedes driver’s poor start at Sochi

In their post-race debrief, Elliott mentioned that the Mercedes driver got a very good launch and was challenging the leaders. But he got bogged out down by Norris de-rating at the straight. He also stated that Max Verstappen played a part in Hamilton’s poor start.

“You have to bear in mind in Lewis’s mind, his main protagonist in the championship (Verstappen) is right at the back of the grid. As a consequence, Lewis had to make the decision in that split second about what is the right thing to do and the right thing for Lewis to do was to make sure that he didn’t get tangled up in a first corner incident,” Elliott said.

Max started the race from the back of the grid after taking his engine penalty. So, unlike most of the races this season, Lewis was not fighting with his championship rival going into the first corner side-by-side.

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The Technical director explains how Norris’s start affected Lewis Hamilton

The Mercedes technical director also put some blame on Lando Norris for messing up the progress of the Brit at the start. He mentioned Norris was de-rating and also blocked Hamilton a bit on the straight at Sochi.

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Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 26, 2021, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the race with McLaren’s Lando Norris who finished P7 REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

“If you actually look at it he was on the dirty side of the grid and given that, he made a really good start. He was making his way through the field effectively up until Norris moved across, blocking Lewis’s path. Norris, we think, was de-rating so actually Lewis’ closing speed really high, partly because of the tow he had and partly because Norris was de-rating.

As a consequence, Lewis had to make a decision: does he try to fight for the inside line or does he brake and make sure he’s not involved in a first corner incident?” said Elliott.

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Hamilton and Norris battled for the lead in the last laps of the race. Lewis got past the McLaren driver after the young Brit continued in the rain and Lewis pitted to change to intermediates.

Do you agree with Mike Elliott on the reasons for Hamilton’s start? Let us know.

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Devang Chauhan

450 articles

Devang Chauhan is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having completed his graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication, he has a keen eye for writing engaging and detailed articles on F1. Previously a writer for Sports Social's 'Chase Your Sport' Magazine, Devang has been an ardent follower of the sport for over a decade and has attended two editions of the Indian Grand Prix.

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