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Lewis Hamilton denies pushing Lando Norris off track in Chinese GP Sprint as Charles Leclerc criticises Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz | F1 News

Lewis Hamilton has dismissed suggestions he forced Lando Norris off track at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint.

Mercedes’ Hamilton started alongside pole-sitter Norris on the front row at the Shanghai International Circuit but got a better launch to pull alongside the McLaren as they approached the first corner.

Hamilton, on the inside line, was the clear favourite to hold the lead at that point, but Norris refused to yield before running wide and dropping to seventh.

The seven-time world champion, who finished second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, was asked in the post-race press conference whether he had “hung Norris out to dry”.

He replied: “I obviously got a great start. I was on the inside line. He tried to hold the outside line and we were both just pushing to the maximum.

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Lewis Hamilton defends his opening lap battle for first position with Lando Norris in the Sprint race at the Chinese GP.

“I used everything to try to hold position and eventually I think he just ended up on the dirty bit on the outside and then lost it.

“There’s a point when you go a bit too far, then there’s no grip out there and I think that’s what he eventually found.

“In that scenario, he should have just conceded and just parked up behind me. He probably would have the pace to overtake me because the McLaren is very quick. I know he lost a lot of ground there, but that’s racing.”

Rosberg: Big mistake by Norris

Sky Sports F1’s Nico Rosberg said Norris had made a “big mistake” by going off track at Turn 1, with the Brit eventually finishing sixth.

“It was quite a big mistake, which hurts as a driver because you are on pole position and favourite to get the win,” 2016 world champion Rosberg said. “Then you make a mistake at Turn 1 and fly off the track and are sixth after that.

“That’s very, very painful and will be tough for him to stomach, so hopefully he can get over it quickly and go back into qualifying mode.”

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The best of the action from a dramatic Sprint at the Chinese Grand Prix.

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Norris, who will drive in his 109th grand prix on Sunday, remains without an F1 victory.

The 24-year-old has come close to winning on multiple occasions, but he has lost out on several opportunities to at least challenge for victory in recent times due to errors.

“He lost the opportunity to win the race, although it would have been difficult against Verstappen,” Rosberg added.

“You’ve got to say Lando does make one or two mistakes sometimes.

“That’s exactly where you need that first win to give you that one per cent more self-confidence or self-belief. But there are one or two mistakes too many.”

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Lando Norris said he had ‘no chance’ of victory in the Sprint and the McLaren’s race pace was ‘shocking’ after going backward after his Sprint pole.

A frustrated Norris apologised to his team over radio at the end of the race, but said that McLaren’s “shocking” race pace meant he had “no chance” of victory.

“Maybe we could have been one or two positions higher but that was it,” Norris told Sky Sports F1. “The Mercedes had very good pace and George was catching us quickly.

“Lewis had good pace as well and even the Red Bulls and Ferraris. I was managing to survive just because of the DRS. If I didn’t have DRS, I was long gone behind all of them.

“Our race pace was pretty shocking which we kind of expected just with how the track is and the limitations on the car, so nothing new.”

Leclerc: Sainz over the limit in Ferrari battle

There was further drama to come in Shanghai as a four-way battle for third reached its conclusion in the closing stages of the 19-lap race.

After being overtaken by Verstappen on lap seven, Fernando Alonso had Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on his tail, with Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc quickly forming a DRS train behind.

Alonso showed off his trademark defensive skills to keep Sainz at bay, but finally came unstuck on the third-to-last lap as the in-form Ferrari driver pulled off a smart move to get ahead.

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However, Alonso refused to accept the loss of position and dived up Sainz’s inside a few corners later, with the pair making contact that would force the Aston Martin driver out of the race and push the Ferrari off track.

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Intense battle ensures for third place between Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc in the Sprint at the Chinese Grand Prix.

While Perez eased into third, Sainz rejoined the track just in front of Leclerc, and was then guilty of some slightly overzealous defence of his own against his Ferrari team-mate.

The pair made contact as Sainz slid into Leclerc and pushed him off track, before the Monegasque eventually got past to claim fourth on the following lap.

Asked whether Sainz had “crossed a line” with his driving, Leclerc told Sky Sports F1: “I think so. But, to be honest, I have crossed the line also myself in the past, and when this happens we normally have a discussion, we clear the air.

“We went through that in the past already and it went really well, so I have no worries that it will be the case also this weekend.

“But today he went a bit over the limit. I mean a contact between us two, being in a different race situation because I had saved quite a bit the tyres, I had a good pace at the end. It’s a bit of a shame that we lost that gap to Perez and couldn’t go and take him.”

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Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz discuss their on track battle at the Sprint of the Chinese GP.

The incident between the Ferrari duo was checked and cleared by the stewards, but Alonso was given a 10-second penalty, rendered meaningless by his retirement, along with three penalty points on his licence.

Speaking before Alonso’s penalty had been announced, Sainz told Sky Sports F1: “Behind Fernando, I think I did a really good move around the outside of Turn 7. I think from then on he decided to be a bit of all or nothing into me, into Turn 9, which cost us both the race.

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“I picked up damage and a lot of dirt in my tyre from that optimistic move. From there on I was sliding around with the damage to the car and the dirt on my tyres. I was doing everything I could to defend and obviously sliding.

“I had a bit of a moment of there with Charles, but I apologise if I did something over the limit. We were all racing really hard today and I was trying my best to keep it under control out there.”

Alonso, also speaking before the stewards’ decision was made, suggested that Sainz was responsible for the contact between the pair.

“Someone has to give up,” he told Sky Sports F1. “I gave up in Turn Eight the racing line to avoid contact, he [Sainz] didn’t give up in Turn Nine and we didn’t avoid contact.”

Both drivers continued to await the outcome of the stewards investigation with little more than an hour to go before Saturday’s full qualifying, live on Sky Sports F1 at 8am.

Sky Sports F1’s live Chinese GP schedule

China schedule

Saturday April 20
7am: Chinese GP Qualifying build-up*
8am: Chinese GP Qualifying*
10am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook*

Sunday April 21
7am: Grand Prix Sunday: Chinese GP build-up*
8am: The CHINESE GRAND PRIX*
10am: Chequered Flag: Chinese GP reaction*
11am: Ted’s Notebook*

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

You can watch every session of the Chinese Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 and steam every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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