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Verstappen was running a very different programme, though, with his Red Bull team electing to give him a full engine change that trigger penalties – in addition to his three-place drop for his part in the collision with Hamilton in Italy – to ensure he’ll start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.
The Dutchman could afford to run more sets of the soft tyres – as he doesn’t need to keep them for qualifying – while focusing his data gathering on having a strong car that can overtake and make up ground in the race.
His main rival Hamilton had a largely more straightforward afternoon, though he did overshoot his pitbox to knock over his front jackman. Fortunately, he got up unaided, with the seven-time world champion apologising on team radio and asking the team if he was OK.
Hamilton ended the afternoon second fastest just 0.044s slower than team mate Bottas, who always goes well in Sochi and topped the times for the second successive session this year owing to a stronger final sector.
“These two are racing for a driver championship and you can’t expect them to have velvet gloves on. And that’s why we are going to see harsh moments like this, I believe,” Wolff said Friday.
“They also race each other very close now, which wasn’t the case in the past, and we are discussing these things in detail as well. And I think the change of approach is that Lewis pretty much decided not to bail out any more when he thinks that the corner is his. Now it needs two to tango, it needs two to understand each other on track when when a collision can be avoided.”
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“Max is a no-quarter kind of guy. Lewis has demonstrated that he doesn’t want to give anything either, and when you get two racers of that mentality, you get incidents,” Horner said.
Heavy rain is forecast for the weekend and organizers are already making backup plans in case qualifying can’t be held on Saturday as scheduled. A Formula Three race has already been moved from Saturday to Friday to leave more space in the timetable.