Valtteri Bottas is victorious at the Russian Grand Prix.
Success in Sochi for Valtteri Bottas, as the Finn claims his maiden Grand Prix victory at the Russian Grand Prix. Taking the chequered flag with just a six-tenths lead over pole-man Sebastian Vettel. While Lewis Hamilton struggles with overheating on way to just fourth place.
It was the first time since France, 2008 that Ferrari had claimed a front row lock out. With Sebastian Vettel consistently generating better corner exit speeds to pull away and snatch pole in Russia.
Out of his rivals, Hamilton was one to struggle the most in qualifying. As despite edging his Mercedes ahead through the first sector, when the corners came thick and fast he did not have the traction to maintain the advantage. Eventually coming home fourth, a position he has not won from since 2009.
But while Hamilton comfortably made it onto the grid, Red Bull was left frantically fettling with Max Verstappen’s car after it developed another water leak. Leaving his mechanics forced to pull out his power unit with only enough time to close the leak rather than a full repair before the car had to hit the grid.
A grid headed by Sebastian Vettel when the lights went out, but without Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard parked up before the race even got going.
Alonso had reported a lack of charge on the radio, to which the McLaren pitwall asked him to try again. But there would be no trying again when he parked his car at the start of the pit lane.
Now, when the race got going, Vettel headed the 19-car field. But when the cars flicked right and stretched out of turn two, that field was down to 17 after contact between Grosjean and Palmer left both sat in the barrier.
The incident was no more than a first lap 50-50, with Romain throwing one down the inside in a bid to gain positions. But with a car to his left, and already on the edge of the track, Palmer had to turn into the corner. Unfortunately resulting in contact that pitched the Renault sideways and lifting the Haas momentarily into the air.
“First corner, I had a Sauber on the outside and Grosjean on the inside, I don’t reallly know what he thought would happen,” describes Palmer to the media following his retirement. “Maybe he doesn’t realise there was a Sauber on my outsdie. There’s not much I could do – I’m blaming him.”
With two cars out, the safety car joined the action too. Neutralising the race as marshals rushed to the crash site. Leaving Valterri Bottas to set the pace having snatched the lead from Vettel after a storming start.
Bottas leapt from his grid spot to nudge ahead of Raikkonen as Hamilton pulled aside the Ferrari. And with the long straight ahead, Bottas picked up Vettel slipstream to drag his Silver Arrow ahead before slamming on the brakes for the first real corner of the track.
Valtteri vaulting into the lead, however, hampered his teammate as he took the lead. For Hamilton was forced to lift off earlier into the braking zone than he would have liked when Vettel tucked in behind the now race leader. Lifting off early also allowed Raikkonen to maintain third, as he could brake later with more clean track ahead.
Sharp work by the marshals meant few laps behind the safety car were needed. Quickly leaving Bottas to engage the restart, and again getting the jump on the Ferrari’s to create a comfortable lead heading onto the pit straight.
This time, the race would last more than a few corners. But that was soon not the case for Daniel Ricciardo as his Red Bull developed a terminal problem.
Following on from Verstappen’s pre-race panic, any reliability concerns would have been on the Dutchman’s car. But just four laps in, Ricciardo noted “I can see my right rear brake is on fire”. Leaving the Australian out of the race as he slowed his pace to ease back to the pits
A down-hearted Ricciardo comes onto the radio: “They’ve gone…”
With one car out, Red Bull looked to ensure a finish with the other car as they asked Verstappen to push his brake balance as far forwards as possible.
While at Mercedes, despite Bottas continuing to lead, the team were not without issues of their own. For all the time Hamilton crept onto the radio to question an intermittent power issue that left him falling further from the front, the team were requesting the Briton found more clean air in order to cool the car.
“Why is my car overheating guys? I’m out of this race” questions Hamilton as the team again warn about temperatures.
When Hamilton then tried to respond to Vettel and Bottas setting new fastest laps, the temperatures instantly came back up. Meanwhile, the cars towards the rear of the field began to stop for fresh rubber.
Pitting for fresh rubber may have demoted Magnussen from the points. But bringing his car into the box allowed the Dane to serve his five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits at turn two back at the start of the race.
Unfortunately for the race leading Bottas, his tyres holding on meant the back markers were now hampering his progress. Handing Vettel an advantage as the German reduced the margin.
Taking that advantage away from Vettel, Mercedes brought Bottas instantly into the pits too for a change onto the red-walled Pirelli supersofts. Leaving Ferrari debating a possible overcut, like what lead them to victory in Australia against Hamilton.
Soon after Bottas, Hamilton and then Raikkonen flowed into the pit lane to switch onto the supersoft tyres. But while Hamilton lost time to Kimi with traffic, the Finn’s switch of compound switched his pace around as he raised the bar to close on Vettel.
Raikkonen’s sudden splurge of speed left Vettel’s advantage constantly diminishing to such an extent their hand was forced and Seb stopped. Returning to the track back behind Bottas, but crucially ahead of his teammate. And more crucially, with much fresher tyres that could take him to the end.
Mercedes, too, were looking towards the future in regards to Hamilton. As while the three-time World Champion fell ever further away from the podium, they still desired a safe margin over Verstappen that would allow a free pit-stop should another safety car come out.
Valtteri Bottas may too have hoped for another safety car soon after, when the Finn made a small mistake at turn 13. With that small mistake leaving a large flat spot on his front left tyre that gave Vettel all the encouragement he needed to slash the Finn’s lead.
Lap after lap Sebastian ate more and more into Valtteri’s lead. Taking a second here and second there, a tenth here and a tenth there. Leaving him just outside of the DRS range as the end of the race neared.
Knowing victory was beginning to be challenged, Bottas began to respond with faster sectors than the Ferrari. Keeping the Prancing Horse in the stable rather than allowing it to bolt with DRS.
The stable door, though, was flapping in the wind with every sector. Creaking further open as Vettel pounded in a new fastest lap of the Grand Prix. A fastest lap that took him within the DRS range.
Valtteri, though, marginally responded to slam the Ferrari’s flap shut as they hit the pit straight. A welcoming home to Bottas as Raikkonen snuck in a new fastest lap of his own to take that honour away from his team-mate.
Sebastian did not give up, however. Picking up his pace again to move back within DRS range of the race leader as the chequered flag loomed and Bottas began to pick up the wake of Felipe Massa.
The soon to be lapped Williams, though, handed Bottas a vital bite of DRS on the final lap. Tucking in behind his former team-mate to ease into turn two and put a car between himself and his race-victory rival.
Having Massa between himself and Bottas, Vettel knew too that he had to get ahead soon. Lunging down the inside at turn four and edging back behind Bottas.
Unfortunately, though, Bottas had pulled far enough clear. Taking the chequered flag ahead of the four-time champ to claim his first Grand Prix victory in Formula One.
Bottas was not unfamiliar with a podium finish before his arrival at Mercedes in 2017. But he was yet to take pole or victory, two achievements he has now conquered in just four races with the Brackley team.
Bottas also finished the Russian Grand Prix 36 seconds ahead of his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton. A man who came home outside of the podium places for the first time in nine races.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||1’00.416||10|
|6||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||1’26.788||8|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||1’35.004||6|
|9||Felipe Massa||Williams||Mercedes||1 lap||2|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||1 lap||1|
|11||Lance Stroll||Williams||Mercedes||1 lap|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Renault||1 lap|
|13||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||Ferrari||1 lap|
|14||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||Honda||1 lap|
|15||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||1 lap|
|16||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber||Ferrari||2 laps|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||DNF|