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Magnussen, Grosjean lament missed opportunity for Haas F1

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For the Haas F1 Team, Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix is a classic case of “What might have been.”

A stellar qualifying on Saturday saw both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean advance into Q3, with the duo eventually qualifying sixth and seventh respectively, and Daniel Ricciardo’s five-spot grid penalty moved them up to fifth and sixth on the grid.

The race start saw even more good fortune as Magnussen moved into fourth in Turn 1 and stayed there for the opening stint, while Grosjean eventually worked himself into fifth after a spin by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.

However, the wheels, almost literally, came off of their weekend during the first round of pit stops, with both drivers exiting the pits with loose wheels – the left-rear for Magnussen and the left-front for Grosjean – and both cars retired within a handful of laps of each other.

What’s more, the team was fined for a pair of unsafe pit releases, adding insult to injury on a day that began with so much promise.

Magnussen seemed particularly frustrated and kept his post-race comments very short.

“Tough one to swallow. Not only for me, but the whole team, losing both cars in such a good position. Tough one to swallow, but we’ll fight back,” he told Formula’1 Will Buxton in the post-race edition of F1 Paddock Pass.

Grosjean echoed similar disappointment, highlighting their strong pace as evidence that a good result slipped through their grasp.

“It’s not the easiest moment, you know, especially for the first race of the season, the first time we’re running fourth and fifth with the cars and doing a great job. We had good pace,” he said to Buxton during the aforementioned Paddock Pass.

However, Grosjean also asserted a sense optimism for Haas’ outlook in the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, given how well they looked at the opening round in Australia.

“I’m sure we’re going to come back stronger, we always bounce back,” he asserted. “(In the race) we lost a lot of points. But, if the car is as good as it was today for the rest of the season, we’re going to be like ‘We’re going to forget that one.’ If it’s not the case, it could be a bit more painful. I’ve got good hope that the car is going to be good and that we can keep up our showing.”

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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.