Russian Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won the Russian GP, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel retired after ignoring team instructions.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The story of the race was actually quite complicated, as the start suggested it would be a Ferrari romp. Sebastian Vettel, starting from P3, hooked up his start perfectly as he immediately jumped Hamilton before slipping in behind polesitter Charles Leclerc to slipstream past him into Turn 2. With Vettel snatching the lead, Leclerc settled into P2 with Hamilton holding off Carlos Sainz to claim P3 out of Turn 2.
Vettel immediately started to pull away from Leclerc, but it became apparent that some form of team agreement had been reached at Ferrari to help Vettel past Hamilton. Ferrari team radio to both drivers said that they wanted their drivers to swap positions, which Vettel ignored as he said that he “would have had Leclerc off the line” anyway. Vettel relentlessly pulled away from Leclerc to lead by around 4.5 seconds by Lap 20.
Leclerc was unhappy over team radio, but calm, as he said he’d kept up his side of the agreement. Leclerc was pitted on Lap 22 to swap to the Medium tyre, but Ferrari kept Vettel out on track for a further five laps. This very obvious undercut advantage for Leclerc meant that he came out ahead of Vettel. With the potential headache of their team orders now taken care of, any potential fight was immediately negated as Vettel encountered an engine issue. With his MGU-K failing, he pulled over and was out of the Russian GP. This triggered a Virtual Safety Car deployment, meaning that both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were able to pit to swap to the Soft tyre without losing much time to Leclerc behind.
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After the VSC ended, a full Safety Car was deployed to cover the recovery of Williams’ George Russell as he had a mechanical failure. Leclerc took advantage of this to pit again to swap to the Soft tyre, coming out in P3 and trailing the two Mercs.
With Vettel now out of the race, it was on Leclerc to try salvaging Ferrari’s race but, despite a few DRS-assisted looks at Bottas into Turn 2, he was unable to make an impact on the Finn. Hamilton was thus able to reel off the laps and claim the win over Bottas, with Leclerc forced to settle for P3.
Max Verstappen finished a relatively quiet P4 for Red Bull Racing, while Alex Albon was P5 in the second Red Bull after starting on the Medium tyre from the pitlane. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz put up a great fight en route to P6 and best of the rest, ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Lando Norris finished P8 for McLaren, although ninth on track, as Kevin Magnussen picked up a five second time penalty towards the end of the race. The Haas driver was P9, eighth on track, returning to the points in the Russian Grand Prix for the first time since Germany. His offence was failure to rejoin the track properly after running wide at Turn 2. The final points position went to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Lance Stroll finished P11 for Racing Point, while Daniil Kvyat won a very intense battle with his teammate Pierre Gasly to finished P12 for Toro Rosso. The intensity of the Toro Rosso fight meant that Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen was able to nip past Gasly to finish P13, with Gasly forced to settle for P14.
Antonio Giovinazzi finished P15 in the second Alfa Romeo, having been involved in a first lap clash with Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo. Stuck between the two other cars as they braked into Turn 4, Giovinazzi survived the clash, while Grosjean was eliminated on the spot for Haas. Daniel Ricciardo initially kept going and continued after a pitstop for repairs. However, Renault retired him later as a result of damage to his aerodynamics and balance.
Along with Grosjean, Ricciardo and Vettel, both Williams drivers retired. George Russell ended up in the barriers as a result of an undisclosed mechanical failure, while Kubica retired as the team said they wanted to conserve parts as a result of not being in points contention.