Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton hopes to “utilise” Mercedes’ strategy gamble to challenge rivals Ferrari for victory in the Russian Grand Prix.

Both Mercedes drivers will start Sunday’s race on Medium tyres after the reigning world champion squad opted for a different strategy to Ferrari in Q2, with both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel starting on Softs.

Ferrari should have a theoretical advantage off the line with the grippier and faster Soft compound, but Mercedes is pinning its hopes of a first win since F1's summer break on an alternative strategy paying off.

Hamilton revealed Mercedes’ strategic thinking was swayed by Ferrari’s superior straight-line speed, with the Briton conceding that Leclerc and Vettel would likely have been ahead regardless of which tyres he started on due the long drag down to the first real braking zone at Turn 3.

“I think the team did a great job to put us on the Mediums and naturally from the two tyres there’s obviously a delta and the Softer the tyre the better the start,” Hamilton explained.

“So it will be a little bit tough off the start. But even if we were in the lead, if we were on pole for example, they are just so fast on the straights by the time we get to Turn 1, which is the little kink, they blast past us with the jet fuel or whatever it is.

“So, yeah, it is about strategy, which is why we are on a different tyre and I hope that we can utilise that and keep the pressure on.

“If you’ve seen the couple of races we’ve had we’ve been right with them but I’m hoping tomorrow we can really give them a good fight.”

Leclerc, who became the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to claim four consecutive pole positions, is confident his team has made the correct strategy call.

“On our side I think the start is very important here and we thought that the benefits of starting on Soft was big,” he said.

“And then there was not much difference, in terms of degradation, from the Soft to the Medium. So, we thought it was worth it to make it our start tyre.

“It will be very important to stay in front, and they were also strong in the race pace, as they’ve always been since the beginning of the season, so, it obviously feels good to be on pole here.”



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