Hamilton credits Verstappen damage limitation, wary of upcoming circuits

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Lewis Hamilton credited Max Verstappen for his "mega damage limitation" after finishing second at the Russian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver started at the back of the grid in Sochi due to engine and other grid penalties before making his way up to seventh in the dry.

When the rain arrived in the closing laps, however, Verstappen gained another five places after an early change to intermediates, meaning he only lost seven points to Hamilton in the championship.

“To come from last to second is a huge effort, that is mega damage limitation,” the Mercedes driver told Sky Sports.

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“The Red Bulls are so fast, they’ve been quickest pretty much most of the year. They’ve done a great job.

“We’ve got to see what we can do moving forwards. It’s going to be tough to beat them, but we’re going to give it everything.”

Seven races remain this season, and just two points separate the championship rivals. But after two races where Mercedes were expected to be quicker, Hamilton is worried Verstappen could have the edge at the upcoming circuits.

"Well, undoubtedly it’s going to be tough. I think, for two-thirds of the season so far they’ve had the edge," he said assessing the championship situation.

"However, it’s obviously been difficult with all sorts of things, curveballs sent to both of us and our teams.

"There’s still everything to play for in these next races. I think they’ve got a good set of circuits coming up and I anticipate it will continue to be really close between us. [I've] Just got to be hopeful of some good races."

Mercedes will certainly look at tracks like Austin and Abu Dhabi, where they've been historically good, as places they need to win, particularly as Red Bull have the high-altitude advantage in Brazil and Mexico.

However, Toto Wolff doesn't believe past form counts for anything in this year's championship fight.

“I’ve stopped trying to anticipate whether it’s historically a strong race for us because everything changes with the new regulations,” he said.

“Definitely we knew that Monza and Sochi would be coming more towards us, but the reality is we are where we are, and this is the points gap.

“I doubt that any of the two teams will make massive swings up or down, it’s just about continuing to do the best possible job."