Valtteri Bottas jumped into the lead at the start and withstood the pressure from Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages to take his first Formula 1 race victory at the Sochi Autodrom on Sunday.
Starting from third on the grid, the Finn managed to out-drag both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to lead into turn one, and in the initial stages was quicker than the Scuderia Ferrari duo to pull out almost a five second lead.
But once they had both switched from the Ultrasoft to the Supersoft tyre – Vettel seven laps later than Bottas – the Ferrari driver began to edge closer and closer, ending up within DRS range with a couple of laps remaining, however the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer held on to win by 0.617 seconds.
Vettel had a moment on the last lap when lapping Felipe Massa that saw the German get slightly delayed at turn four, which left him with too much work to do in the remainder of the lap and in the last DRS zone, and was ultimately forced to settle for second, although it does extend his championship advantage at the top of the standings leaving Russia.
Raikkonen retained third into turn two after aggressively braking into the turn having ran three-wide heading into turn one with Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian soon fell in behind Hamilton, but this allowed his Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen to get through into fifth.
The majority of the field got through the pinch point of turn two until Jolyon Palmer and Romain Grosjean came to blows at the back of the field. Grosjean, from the back of the grid, was attempting to pass the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver but found the gap closing on him to the point the two touched, twice, the second punting the Haas F1 Team driver into the wall and bringing out the safety car.
Ricciardo’s race was over at the end of lap four when his rear brakes caught alight, with the Red Bull driver slowing down so to get back to the pits safely. His retirement caused the Red Bull pit wall to inform Verstappen to push his brake bias as far forward on his own car to ensure the same problem did not hit the Dutchman.
Bottas got a great jump on the resumption of the race to pull a gap to Vettel, while Raikkonen kept Hamilton at bay, while Verstappen pulled away from Massa once his team-mate dropped out of the race.
Raikkonen takes first Podium of 2017
Raikkonen ended the race just over ten seconds down on his team-mate but well clear of Hamilton, who seemingly could not get his Mercedes to work as strongly as team-mate Bottas, with the Briton told early on to concentrating on keeping the temperatures down on his W08, which ultimately saw him drop further and further away from the front runners.
Verstappen had a very quiet race in fifth, ending over a minute down on the race winner but 26.372 seconds clear of sixth placed Sergio Perez, with the second Sahara Force India F1 Team racer Esteban Ocon securing his best result in Formula 1 in seventh, another 8.216 seconds down.
Nico Hülkenberg was the last of those not lapped for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team in eighth, with the German the last to make the switch from the Ultrasoft to the Supersoft with just twelve laps remaining.
Massa was on course to finish sixth but was made to make an unscheduled second pit stop due to a slow puncture, leaving the Williams Martini Racing driver in ninth and in line for that late race mix-up with Vettel at turn four.
A Point, Penalties and more woe for Alonso
The final point on offer went to Carlos Sainz Jr and Scuderia Toro Rosso, who made up early ground to run eleventh and then moved ahead of Kevin Magnussen when the Dane was handed a five-second time penalty in his pit stop for track limit violations at turn two on the opening lap, with the Haas F1 Team driver fell to thirteenth at the chequered flag.
Lance Stroll finally saw the chequered flag in his fourth Grand Prix start, but blotted his copybook somewhat by spinning just as the safety car was deployed and dropping a handful of places. The Williams driver was inside the top ten and alongside Hülkenberg when he hit the kerb hard and spun around, rejoining just ahead of Marcus Ericsson of the Sauber F1 Team.
Daniil Kvyat finished twelfth in the second Toro Rosso after a quiet afternoon for the home hero ahead of Magnussen, while Stoffel Vandoorne managed to see the chequered flag for only the second time this season for the McLaren Honda F1 Team in fourteenth, ahead only of the two Saubers, Ericsson ahead of Pascal Wehrlein. Vandoorne also took a time penalty for track limits on the first lap, ultimately finishing 27.870 seconds behind Magnussen, but 2.673 seconds ahead of Ericsson.
Fernando Alonso’s wretched season continued as he ground to a halt on the formation lap after more technical woes on the second McLaren. He was complaining with a potential ERS issue on the grid, but despite trying to recycle the car on the formation lap, stopped his MCL32 on the approach to the pit lane, with the positioning of his car meant an extra formation lap was needed.
But no one could deny Bottas, who became the 107th winner in Formula 1 in his 81st race start, and the confidence it should give him should ensure that Formula 1 in 2017 is not just about Vettel vs. Hamilton.
Sochi Autodrom Race Result
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