Max Verstappen hints at becoming Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 teammate

Charles Leclerc Ferrari on the grid

Hamilton drove "pole-worthy" laps to split Ferrari

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Red Bull's Max Verstappen are now joint third and 96 points off the British driver, while Vettel is in fifth place and a further six points behind.

"I think it would be a courageous man who would put his house on any one of these three teams because it looks pretty challengingly close at the front", Mercedes technical director James Allison, sitting alongside his counterparts from Ferrari and Red Bull, told reporters yesterday. "I'm so glad it came together, I wasn't expecting it to".

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A one-stop strategy has traditionally been quickest in Russian Federation but the jury is out on whether it is best to start on softs or medium, and for how long to run, before going to harder rubber. We're also quite reassured by the fact that on high fuel and when the first lap is taken out of the picture, the auto looks swift and looks like it will be a good racing vehicle. "Action should be taken and we should be a lot stricter with it", Hamilton said. "Why would I want to go slower?" he responded. "I think the reversed grid is a bit desperate - and I don't think we're in a desperate time at all". So it will be tough off the start tomorrow, but even if we were in the lead - or if we were on pole for example - they're so fast on the straights that by the time they get to Turn 1, the kink, they blast past us with the jet fuel or whatever it is!

Leclerc described his Friday as a "pretty positive day", having been particularly encouraged by what he felt was "probably our strongest race pace we've had in FP2 since the beginning of the season". It's still all to play for.

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Vettel, who conceded he "couldn't extract the maximum out of the car", will start third. We have a big challenge on our hands, but we will give it everything to try and take the fight to them.

"Over the years, Lewis hasn't had the strongest teammates", Verstappen revealed to The Telegraph.

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But single-lap performance hasn't really been a concern for Ferrari of late - and if the wet forecast holds true, it will be of little significance too. But we have certain rules both ways and they are equal. At the same time, we're sad that we didn't have the pace to beat Leclerc today, but congratulations to him for a very good series of laps. But Leclerc, Vettel and Verstappen all ran the "soft" tyres to set their fastest times, while Bottas and Hamilton used the "medium", so it is hard to draw any conclusions from their headline lap times.

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