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Steiner: Impossible to predict F1’s midfield in closing races

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Haas Formula 1 chief Guenther Steiner believes it is “impossible” to predict the pecking order among the midfield outfits heading into the final four races of the season as the American team bids to hold on to P7 in the constructors’ championship.

Haas has been engaged in a close-knit battle with Williams, Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren in recent races, with the advantage to be fifth-quickest in F1 swinging between all of the teams at various points.

Haas moved back ahead of Renault in the teams’ standings last time out in Japan thanks to a double-points finish with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, giving it a boost heading into the final four rounds of the year.

The team now heads to its home race, the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, hopeful of continuing its form, but Steiner does not think there is a magic answer to doing so.

“There is no recipe to that one. We just go out in FP1, see where we are, and go from there,” Steiner said.

“As I always say, to make predictions this year, in the midfield, is impossible. Nobody can predict it. People wrote us off after Malaysia. They said we’d scored the last of our points this year. Then we came back in Japan with two cars in the points.

“Anything can happen. It doesn’t depend only on how we are doing, but how good the other teams are. That’s obvious, but by being so tight, anything can happen.

“Last year we scored a point at COTA and we’ll try to do better this year.”

Steiner made no secret of the motivation the result in Japan offered the team, particularly ahead of what is shaping up to be Haas’ most important race of the year.

“It’s always motivating – what these guys work for is success. For us, success is to be scoring points,” Steiner said.

“We scored with two cars for the second time since we entered Formula One, which is less than two years. Everybody is pumped up and now we come to the United States, the home country of Haas F1 Team.

“For sure it’s motivating and everybody wants to keep it going.”

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.