Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff hold Max Verstappen crash meeting before Russian Grand Prix

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted that his team have held talks with star driver Lewis Hamilton over his increasingly bitter rivalry with Max Verstappen. Hamilton goes into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix behind the Red Bull driver in the Formula One standings and Wolff revealed that the Brit had changed his approach over his closest rival.

The pair were involved in a race-ending crash at the Italian Grand Prix which saw sparks fly between the two drivers and their teams.

They previously tangled on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which left Verstappen in hospital while Hamilton recovered to win the race.

Hamilton has times backed out of close racing situations – on the first laps of the Emilia Romagna, Spanish and Italian Grands Prix – while Verstappen fought out every contested corner.

Hamilton trails the Dutchman by just five points coming into the Russian GP in Sochi and Wolff said there has been lots of conversations about how the seven-time champion should deal with Verstappen on the track.

Wolff believes the dynamic between the pair has changed due to Hamilton becoming less willing to back down during wheel-to-wheel combat, something he says the team are “discussing in detail”.

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“I think the change of approach is that Lewis pretty much decided not to bail out anymore when he thinks that the corner is his,” he said.

“It needs two to tango, it needs two to understand each other on track and when a collision can be avoided.

“But they are in the cars, we have no influence on the driving and they will know much better than us how the other one is racing yourself and it’s interesting to watch.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said he and Verstappen always discuss all on-track incidents but that he did not expect the Dutchman to change his approach.

“We always review any incident and look at it very carefully and you always think: ‘Could I have done anything different? Could I have done anything better?'” Horner said.

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“Max is always very open to that. He is extremely self-critical. You’re always learning.

“But he’s a hard racer. It is part of his character – it is part of why he has the following he does.

“You know he is going to give 110% and that has an impact on the driver he is racing, because they just know he is going to go for it.

“But of course there has to be measure, and at the right times he has shown that measure even in different races this year, but it is part of the character that he is, that he is an attacking driver. It’s part of his make-up and I don’t think it’s going to change.”

Verstappen will start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the back of the grid as a result of a penalty for using too many engines.

Red Bull, who needed to take four engines instead of three, have decided to take the penalty in Russia because Verstappen was given a three-place grid penalty for his part in his crash with Hamilton during the last race.

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