Lewis Hamilton took a commanding lead in the F1 World Drivers Championship by taking victory at the Russian GP, the gap between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel now stands at 50 points. With five races remaining, even if Hamilton failed to finish the next two races and Vettel won both, Hamilton would still be leading by virtue of more wins. Vettel has a massive challenge ahead to overturn a 50 point deficit.
Onto the race itself, polesitter Valtteri Bottas made an excellent start, as did Sebastian Vettel, going into the turn 1 sweeper, Vettel was alongside Hamilton challenging for second, but Hamilton tucked into the Bottas’ slipstream, getting a tow allowing the Briton to maintain second place. Hamilton then got a run on Bottas around the sweeping turn 3 left-hander, but Bottas maintained the lead going into turn 4.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made up an astonishing 6 places on the first lap, and 13 places in the first six laps. I have been a critic of the Dutchman for his petulance, getting involved in collisions regularly, but his performance today was a racing masterclass, every move was decisive and clean, and despite finishing 5th, he actually led more laps than Bottas or Hamilton on the soft tires he started on.
Also, on lap six, both Toro Rosso’s had unexplained individual spins under braking, which clearly indicates an issue with the car as Squadro Toro Rosso elected to bring both cars into the pits to retire.
While Verstappen was carving through the field like a hot knife through butter, Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo was making much slower progress. Which, when the Australian made a pit stop for tires and a replacement front wing, it became apparent that Ricciardo was suffering from a damaged front wing from the opening lap, which explains why Ricciardo was so slow compared to his younger teammate.
By the time the first and only round of pit stops played out, with Vettel pitting a lap before Hamilton coupled with the Briton catching traffic on his in-lap, Vettel managed to leapfrog the Mercedes for what was effectively 2nd place, but Hamilton’s Mercedes was too quick, Vettel could only maintain the position for a single lap before Hamilton swept past Vettel around turn 3, completing the move into turn 4.
On lap 25, Mercedes instructed Valtteri Bottas to let Lewis Hamilton pass for second, effective 1st place, to supposedly protect Hamilton’s rear tires and gift the Briton the win after Verstappen finally made his mandatory pitstop. After the race, clearly, both Hamilton and Bottas were not happy, Lewis didn’t want to win the race in this way, and Bottas was clearly pissed about having another race win stolen from him.
On lap 26; Force India made a similar decision, Perez was allowed to pass Ocon, after Ocon failed to make an impact on Kevin Magnussen in 8th place. Perez also could not get close enough to make a pass on the HAAS, so the team did the correct thing and switched their drivers back to their original positions. Many feel that Mercedes should have done the same after it was clear Ferrari was not a threat.
Personally, I feel bad for Bottas, who did everything right, but I understand why Mercedes decided not to switch their drivers around, with Hamilton now having a 50 point lead in the world drivers championship, it’s his championship to lose. F1 is a team sport, and Bottas played the good #2 and moved over for his team leader, despite Mercedes insistence on no team orders, it’s clear who’s top dog at Mercedes.
Russian Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:32.054
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +2.545
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +7.487
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +16.543
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +31.016
|6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +80.451
7. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +98.390
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
9. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
10. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP