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Grosjean: ‘Bloody annoying’ to miss out on Suzuka points

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Romain Grosjean made no secret of his frustration after missing out on a points finish in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, calling it “bloody annoying”.

Grosjean and Haas Formula 1 teammate Esteban Gutierrez secured the team’s first double-Q3 appearance on Saturday at Suzuka, qualifying P8 and P10 respectively.

Grosjean dropped to ninth off the line before falling outside the points, leaving him with a fightback if he wanted to end Haas’ run without points that dates back to the middle of July.

The Frenchman ultimately crossed the line 11th, less than a second behind Williams’ Valtteri Bottas in P10.

“We struggled at first with the softs [tires], a lot of graining. But then the car was flying!” Grosjea told NBCSN after the race.

“I’ve never been so frustrated to end a race because we deserved much more. We were so much faster than the Williams.

“The pace was amazing. A lot of promise, but it’s so bloody annoying to be that close and not do anything.”

Grosjean has struggled with brake problems through the past few races, but said that Haas is now on top of the issue.

“The brakes, we know what’s happening. Not enough energy in brakes when they’re cold, and they don’t work,” he explained.

“No confidence then. But that was one of the best drives of my career, even if no points!

“I’m so frustrated with the result but so optimistic about the updates and the pace we have. We know what we can do.”

Gutierrez saw his hopes of points end after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr. dropped him out of contention, miring him towards the back of the field. The Mexican crossed the line in 20th place.

“Everything started pretty good. We’ve been working a lot on getting the best out of our start and today that proved to be better,” Gutierrez said.

“On the first stint, things were going well. We were managing the gap, pushing to get higher up to the front of the grid. I then came into the pits and I ended back out behind a lot of traffic, and that was it.

“I was trying to push forward, trying to overtake, and then I had an incident with Carlos. He braked a bit early, closing the door, and I had nowhere to go as I was preparing the corner to overtake him on the straight.

“After that, I had some damage on the front wing which wasn’t ideal. Unfortunately, this is how the race went. It was not what we wanted, but now we need to keep pushing and keep a good rhythm and really put in a good performance as we head to our home race in Texas.”

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.