RUSSIAN GP – Valtteri Bottas wins as Lewis Hamilton earns penalties before race begins

Testing & Race Reports

Valtteri Bottas has closed the gap slightly to Lewis Hamilton after taking victory in the Russian Grand Prix. The Finn was placed in prime position to take his second win of the season, after teammate Lewis Hamilton was handed a ten-second penalty after making two practice start outside the designated area breaking two of the race directors notes.

Bottas drove a calm race to secure his first win since the first race of the season in Austria. He always knew that he had the upper hand, following a messy qualifying when Hamilton was forced to run get through Q2 on the soft tyres.

The Finn knew he needed to beat Hamilton soon to start closing the gap in the championship, and with Hamilton needing to serve a ten-second stop and go he dropped down the field on lap seventeen.

Bottas got passed Hamilton at the start on the run down to Turn Two with Max Verstappen needing to take avoiding action as he missed the breaking zone followed by his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Meanwhile, Hamilton got past Bottas as they went through Turn Three and Four to lead the race.

The six-times champion ran a little deep at Two after complaining he had a “massive bee” on his visor which made it hard for him to pick his breaking point, and he ran a little too deep, allowing Hamilton to hold him off.

Mercedes speed advantage was clear, Bottas was able to control the race and finished seven and a half seconds ahead of Verstappen, allowing the team to keep there 100% winning record in Sochi.

Bottas: “The start was going to be the first opportunity – actually it was a bit compromised because there was a massive bee, or something, that hit my visor, so I couldn’t really see where I should brake, so that’s why I went too deep. I knew it was going to be a long race.”

A clearly frustrated Hamilton said, “First I want to say a big thank you to the fans that came this weekend, it’s not been a great day but it is what it is. It doesn’t matter, it’s done now so I’ll take the points and move on but congratulations go to Valtteri.”

The closing stages of the race, saw Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton all look comfortable but not close enough to fight each other for victory. Bottas led Verstappen by seven seconds, while Hamilton had dropped eight seconds behind the Dutchman.

Red Bull appearing not to have the pace to be in the hunt for victory. It became clear around the pit stops that the gaps were going to be large between Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton. Bottas led Verstappen following his pit stop by almost ten second behind.

Bottas then increased the margin to thirteen seconds, comfortably ahead as the Dutchman was unable to close the gap as the top three became even more spread out with just under twenty laps to go.

Hamilton will need to wait till Mercedes home Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in two weeks for another attempt at Michael Schumacher’s ninety-one wins. That race could be the first in history to take place in wintery conditions given the race there this weekend.

The FIA announced a U-turn later in the evening they rescinded the three penalty points they had awarded for Hamilton’s practice start violations. Instead, they decided that Mercedes were equally to blame with €25,000 fine with the points being removed from his licence.

Ricciardo was handed a five-second penalty for not correctly observing track limit re-entry rules at Turn Two when he attempted to overtake teammate Esteban Ocon, however, had enough of an advantage to remain in fifth.

During the incident on the opening lap, Lance Stroll spun off into the wall after being clipped by Charles Leclerc, in an unrelated incident as Carlos Sainz ran wide through the bollards, he clipped the front wheel on the wall, breaking the front suspension.

Ricciardo had benefitted early on from the incident but dropped back to finish the race in fifth. Leclerc was lucky to avoid the incident at the start and secure sixth, a strong afternoon for Ferrari after three difficult races but he still remained a second off the pace.

Leclerc ran a very long opening stint to move up from eleventh and finish sixth, arguably one of Ferrari’s better strategy calls in the last eighteen months.

Ocon finished seventh, ahead of the two Alpha Tauri’s. Daniil Kvyat beating his teammate Pierre Gasly to finish his home race in eighth place, while the second Red Bull of Alex Albon rounding out the top ten.

Albon had been involved in a scrap with Lando Norris with ten laps to go, however, a virtual safety car appeared to neutralise the race.

Ferrari power appeared to have a much stronger day, although Leclerc delivered a strong race to finish between the two Renault’s, none of the other cars managed to get into the top ten. Antonio Giovinazzi leading four of the five other Ferrari powered cars in eleventh.

McLaren went without points for the first time this season, Sainz retired in the opening lap accident and Norris finishing fifteenth. It has been McLaren’s most difficult race of the season, it appeared on Friday that the didn’t have their normal pace and that left them struggling to fight for points.



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