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Grosjean leads Haas into Austria Q3 as suspension issue costs Magnussen

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Romain Grosjean led Haas’ charge during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday as a suspension issue cost Kevin Magnussen a chance to match his teammate’s Q3 run.

Grosjean finished just half a second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take seventh on the grid for Haas and score his best qualifying result since the opening race of the year in Australia.

The Frenchman was forced to stop his car on-track at the end of Q3 due to an electrical issue, inadvertently preventing his rivals from going any faster and shuffling him down the order.

After struggling for much of the season with recurring brake problems, the result offered Grosjean a boost as he bids to add to his points haul on Sunday.

“We’ve been quick all weekend, Kevin and I. We’ve both been pretty happy with the car,” Grosjean said.

“Unfortunately, Kevin had the suspension issue in Q1, otherwise I think he would’ve been up there with us. Inbetween Q1 and Q2 we found some performance. We had good grip in the car. I think we just lost an electric connection on the car at the end. I’m hoping it’s nothing more serious than that.

“It’s a long race tomorrow. It’s going to be tough on the brakes, tough on the engine and tough physically. It’s the second time this year though, after Melbourne, where I feel the tires are working well and I can really enjoy myself and push the car to the limit.”

Magnussen suffered a suspension failure during Q1 when running over the kerbs at Turn 3, and while his time was still good enough to get into Q2, he could take no part, resigning him to 15th in the final standings.

“We were looking good, so it’s really frustrating not getting the whole qualifying. It’s really unfortunate to break the rear suspension,” Magnussen said.

“It’s just bad luck. I think we could’ve gone on to Q3 today and had a really good chance of points tomorrow. Now it looks more difficult.

“We had been performing well all weekend. We had good pace and were in the top-10. I’m gutted not to get anything out of it.”

The Austrian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET on Sunday.

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.