Max Verstappen refusing to dwell on Russia GP grid drop in title fight with Lewis Hamilton

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has reiterated he believes Monza’s crash at the Italian Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton was a ‘racing incident’ but added he won’t dwell on the grid drop he received for causing a collision.

Hamilton and Verstappen both crashed out of the race two weeks ago as tensions boiled over between the two title protagonists who collided spectacularly on lap 26 of the race.

Verstappen’s Red Bull was left wedged on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes with the pair beached in the gravel in the main race on Sunday after Valtteri Bottas started on pole position thanks to winning the sprint qualifying race.

Verstappen picked up a three-place grid drop after the stewards deemed the Dutchman to be “predominantly to blame” for the crash, which he is due to take at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

It means the championship leader can start no higher than fourth on the grid, even if he manages pole position.

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However, the 23-year-old says he won’t allow it to affect his weekend.

“I think you can reflect all you like but it’s important to look forward and keep pushing,” said Verstappen. “I still believe it was a racing incident, but we have been given a three-place grid penalty and we just have to work with it now. 

“The race in Monza definitely wasn’t our day for many reasons, but now I just plan to look forward to Sochi.”

Verstappen leads the way by five points thanks to a second-place finish during sprint qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.

However, with his grid drop, Russia could be a good opportunity for Mercedes to capitalise in Sochi, but Verstappen says he’s not approaching the weekend any differently.

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“The penalty is of course not ideal but nothing is lost, that’s how I look at it,” added Verstappen. “As for the Drivers’ Championship, we still have a lot of races ahead of us and it’s a very tiny margin. 

“We will try and make the most from the weekend and work with the package we have.”

Last season Verstappen claimed Red Bull Racing’s first ever podium at Sochi, and the 23-year-old is confident he can do one better this season.

“It was great to finish second there last year in Sochi especially as it has never been a good track for us as a Team,” he concluded.

“We have been more competitive this year and we have a better package at the moment so it will be interesting to see how competitive we can be there this year. 

“It will be of course completely different to Monza and it looks like there might be some rain this weekend. 

“The track itself and the layout is completely different to the previous races so I’m definitely looking forward to going back there and seeing what we can do.”

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