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RUSSIAN GP – Lewis Hamilton beats Valtteri Bottas to victory, as Ferrari implodes with strategy and team orders

Lewis Hamilton maintained Mercedes 100% at the Russian Grand Prix taking his fourth victory in Sochi. The Englishman took his first win since the summer break to extend his lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to seventy-five points.

Mercedes played the long game and waited for the race to come to them, the pivotal moment came when the team Ferrari’s race fell apart. Sebastian Vettel refused to follow team orders, they had planned for Charles Leclerc to tow Vettel into the first corner to remove the risk of Hamilton, starting second, taking the lead.

Hamilton’s win and Bottas’s second means that Mercedes could wrap up the constructors in Suzuka in two weeks and Hamilton could seal a sixth title in Mexico in late October.

Vettel and Leclerc both appeared to be angry with what appeared to be an arranged team order for Vettel would hand the place back if he overtook Leclerc because of slipstreaming. Leclerc was told, “Sebastian will let you by on the next lap.”

But when the race leader received the call to do so, Vettel replied: “He’ll have to close up”. The German then extended his lead, eventually getting it beyond three seconds. “You put me behind, I respected everything. We will speak later,” countered Leclerc.

The agreement should have seen Leclerc was told he would get the lead back on the next lap, but when the message was relayed to Vettel. Ferrari then stopped Leclerc ahead of Vettel and switched him to softs, and Leclerc to hards.

This gave Leclerc the upper hand, but the timing of the stop allowed him into the net lead by stopping ahead of Vettel and then remained in control. Vettel’s stop inadvertently gave Hamilton the tow and allowed him to get past Leclerc.

When Vettel stopped four laps later, the German was forced to retire with an MGU-K failure, his first retirement since crashing out of last years race at Hockenheim and trigged the safety car, handed Hamilton a free pit stop and Ferrari’s decision to stop again dropped Leclerc to third.

The timing of the VSC handed Mercedes the faster pit stop, and the timing of junior driver George Russell’s brake failure and following safety car handed Hamilton a free pit stop and Ferrari’s decision to stop again dropped Leclerc to third.

The Mercedes pit stop gamble paying off, it wasn’t the fastest stop but it was a free stop with the VSC. The Silver Arrows running longer could switch to the faster tyres, Leclerc then struggled for pace on the mediums. It also gave Hamilton the better tyre life allowing him to go for fastest lap, without an extra stop.

Ferrari then decided to stop Leclerc for a second time, after Mercedes junior George Russell crashed and brought out the safety car. That ended any chance of victory.

Hamilton said, “Firstly just an incredible job for all the guys here. They’ve been pushing forwards and always trying to be innovative and just never giving up.”

“It makes me feel inspired and it’s incredible to have this result today. Keeping up with [Ferrari] was a hard task. We haven’t given up we kept pushing and the car was fantastic.”

Bottas “I think to start fourth and finish second is not bad – for me, but for the team especially. It’s not a win, but still pretty good. I had a good race. The second stint was really good. We knew we should have good race pace and believed we could do it.”

Both Red Bull’s delivered a solid weekend, benefiting from Vettel’s retirement Max Verstappen drove from ninth to fourth to finish ahead of Alex Albon, who started from the pit lane.

The race started with drama, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi all colliding at Turn Four. The Italian was trapped between the Renault and Haas in the corner, with Ricciardo making contact it pitch the Renault into Grosjean and the barriers. Both retired from the race.

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris capped off a strong consistent weekend with sixth and eighth. However, with Albon’s strong recovery drive from the pit lane, the British-Thai driver passed Sainz to claim fifth in the closing stages to get ahead of the McLarens. In what was a very strong drive.

Sergio Perez also had a strong race to split the McLaren’s getting passed Norris on lap thirty-six, following the Racing Point. Kevin Magnussen was ninth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.

Magnussen had crossed the line eighth but was demoted to ninth for leaving the track in his fight with Perez earlier in the race.

Lance Stroll was eleventh ahead of Daniil Kvyat, the Russian missing out on points in Sochi once again, but finished ahead of his teammate Pierre Gasly with the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen in-between. Antonio Giovinazzi was the final finisher.

Williams run off constant finishes came to an end, George Russell being told to retire after Robert Kubica crashed out. The Williams team ended his race shortly after Russell’s crash “to conserve parts”.

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Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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