RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX, SOCHI – 30TH APRIL 2017
1. Valtteri Bottas
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Lewis Hamilton
5. Max Verstappen
6. Sergio Perez
7. Esteban Ocon
8. Nico Hulkenberg
9. Felipe Massa
10. Carlos Sainz Jr
It was all about Ferrari and Hamilton until Sochi came along!
Just when we thought we had understood exactly how this Formula One season would go; a rejuvenated Ferrari v Lewis Hamilton for the title – his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas achieves his first ever win in Sochi.
While Bottas was understandably buoyant, because after more than 80 race starts, he had finally begun to accomplish what had long been promised “it’s a good feeling and I am happy”; Hamilton was bewildered by his lack of pace, “big congratulations to Valtteri….for me just a very, very odd weekend.”
Bottas’ win had done a bit of a favour for Hamilton’s campaign though – as it meant that the damage inflicted by Vettel was minimised. Vettel now leads by 13 points, but had he won here in Russia it would have been 20.
Hamilton started 4th and failed to improve on that. As he struggled with an overheating car, he simply could not get up enough speed to get past Raikkonen – finishing 25 seconds behind him and 36 behind Bottas.
The last time Hamilton didn’t finish on the podium was in Malaysia last year – when he didn’t finish at all. This weekend, in qualifying, he lacked balance; in the race – he had an overheating problem. Mercedes are going to investigate what went wrong and Hamilton is going to hope that it doesn’t happen again.
“our driving styles are quite similar, so I’m not sure what else in the car was stopping me going in that direction.” (Hamilton)
Both drivers are fiercely competitive. Mercedes had been discussing the possibility of team orders earlier this season, but now Bottas is emerging as a credible challenger to Hamilton – they may just let them battle it out between themselves – as they did with Rosberg and Hamilton.
Bottas has long shown promise and now he is in a competitive car, he has the change to prove himself – he did so today. Under intense pressure from Vettel, he held on to drive an incredible race and earn his first win; silencing anyone who was unsure about him being a suitable replacement for Rosberg.
Ferrari took 2nd and 3rd place in a car that looked balanced; proving a comfortable drive for Vettel and Raikkonen. Achieving good balance in a Formula One car means that it is less demanding on the tyres and in the high temperatures of Barcelona – this should make them favourites.
Verstappen nearly didn’t start the race after suffering a water pump issue – but it was quickly fixed and a good start put him in 5th place.
“I think the whole race went pretty smooth…pretty boring race for me, but of course important points.”
So, was it boring? A lack of overtaking may have made the race slightly subdued. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Ricciardo failed to finish, as he went out on Lap 6 with a right rear brake fire.
McClaren’s Alonso also failed to finish … or even start … as he went out on the formation lap after a hybrid problem.
So, on to the extremely physical circuit in Barcelona and the showcasing of some promised upgrades. According to Hulkenberg, you’ll need a strong neck for the Spanish Grand Prix...