Verstappen holds a five-point advantage over main rival Hamilton in the championship but will start Sunday’s race from last after Red Bull fitted a new Honda engine in his car, triggering an automatic grid penalty for exceeding his permitted allocation of power unit components for the season.

And Hamilton knows Verstappen’s back-of-the-grid start has opened the door for Mercedes to take advantage at a venue it is unbeaten at since Sochi joined the F1 calendar in 2014.

“It doesn’t really change anything for us,” Hamilton said. “We just have to do our thing and focus on moving forward.

“It’s a tough year for everyone with reliability, so it’s definitely a shame for him. But we have to try and capitalise on that naturally and try to get maximum result.

“A one-two would be spectacular for us as a team.”

Hamilton was outpaced by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in both practice sessions on Friday but managed to reduce his deficit from two-tenths of a second in FP1 to just 0.044s in FP2.

Despite ending up closer to Bottas in the afternoon, Hamilton said he felt more comfortable in the opening session.

“It seems like we started off on the right foot,” Hamilton said. “We’re always trying to progress.

“The first run in the first session was the best, and we’ve been migrating and adjusting since and it’s not been as good as that one as you start to push more and more, I guess.

“But it was generally a good session pace wise, we’ve got some work to do probably on our long run and then tomorrow it’s going to be raining a lot we heard.

“So, it’s going to be a big wet day tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what we do in terms of set-up for that, knowing that potentially Sunday is dry.”

Hamilton revealed that Mercedes experimented by running two different set-ups on its cars throughout Friday.

“Me and Valtteri  are quite different on set-up, deliberately going in different ways to try and see what is best,” he explained.

“So tonight, we will try and understand, study those and figure out how we come back to the right path.

“It’s an OK track for me,” Hamilton added. "It’s not my best, it’s not my worst. But there is definitely things I can pinpoint from the data.

“It’s more with set-up mostly, I would say, and probably a little bit in the driving. So I’ll work on it tonight.”