Although he is starting the Russian Grand Prix from pole, Lewis Hamilton expects Bottas and Verstappen to “come flying by” him.
“Pole position is not a good place to start at all and I think this year you’re seeing our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years,” explained Hamilton in the post-qualifying press conference.
“I generally expect one of these two [second-placed Max Verstappen and third-placed Valtteri Bottas] to come flying by at some point.”
The main reason according to Hamilton is the soft tyre compound he will start the race on. Verstappen and Bottas will both start the race on medium compounds.
“Obviously I’m on the worst tyre to start on the race but generally it’s a good tyre to do an actual start. It has the biggest degradation, ten times more than any other tyre.
“I don’t know if that puts me onto a two-stop, I don’t know, unlikely because the pit lane is too slow, so I’m just going to have to nurse those tyres as far as I can.
“These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away so going to sit down tonight to try to figure out if there’s a different kind of race I can do tomorrow to keep my position,” concludes the Briton.
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The reason Hamilton has been put on the sort tyre was to give him a chance to start his final run in Q2 with just two a bit over two minutes left in the session after the red flag was lifted. Toto Wolff explains.
“We felt that if he was at the back of the train and not able to do the outlap he needed to do then he could be caught out because the medium is simply not there yet,” the Austrian said.
“That’s why we put him on the softs, which is clearly a compromise for his strategy tomorrow, but was the necessary safeguard today to make sure he made it into Q3.”
However this puts Lewis at a disadvantage in the race itself.
“We were discussing it and it’s clearly not the optimum strategy because after some laps the soft is clearly going to suffer and that will compromise your whole race because you will need to pit into traffic and then it’s not a great situation,” Wolff continued.
“But we know Lewis is the best overtaker in the field and I hope he can make the way back because he was the quickest driver on track today.”