Team Orders Allow Hamilton to win in Russia to extend championship lead over Vettel

by Jake Nichol

Lewis Hamilton benefited from team-orders imposed by Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport to win the Russian Grand Prix, and extend his Formula 1 world championship lead to fifty points over Sebastian Vettel, who finished third.

Hamilton, who started from second on the grid was waved past pole-sitting team-mate Valtteri Bottas on lap twenty-five of fifty-three, while under pressure from the Scuderia Ferrari car of Vettel.

The British driver then had a clean run to the flag, once Max Verstappen had pitted from the lead. Bottas took second, to extend Mercedes’ lead in the constructors’ championship, as Vettel completed the podium.

At lights out, a fast-starting Vettel was left with nowhere to go, when Bottas covered him, and moved to the right, thus giving Hamilton a slip-stream on the long-run to the first braking zone at Turn 2.

After a period of tyre management, Bottas was the first of the leading gaggle to pit, on lap 12 and rejoined on the soft compound Pirelli tyres in fifth place, behind the fast-starting Verstappen, who had risen from nineteenth on the grid after an aggressive opening lap that saw him gain six places.

Ferrari responded with Vettel a lap later, in an attempt to undercut Hamilton for the net lead of the race. Mercedes hauled Hamilton in on lap fourteen, and the two four-time champions went side-by-side into the Turn two braking zone, with the German having the advantage of warmer tyres and took the position.

However, Vettel locked up at Turn thirteen, and Hamilton was in DRS range at the start of the next lap. The Ferrari was placed under a stewards’ investigation for an aggressive defensive move, but was rendered mute when Hamilton dived up the inside at Turn four to take the position back.

Hamilton was the waved through by Bottas nine laps later, and sat in second until Verstappen pitted from the lead on lap forty-three for fresh ultrasofts.

Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport - Sochi Autodrom

Valtteri Bottas drove superbly but was asked to concede position to Lewis Hamilton – Credit: Steve Etherington

Strong Red Bull showing

Kimi Räikkönen took fourth for Ferrari, while Verstappen recovered after his stop to fifth on his twenty-first birthday.  He had good pace during his soft tyre run but lost some pace when switching to the Ultrasoft, preventing him from closing the gap to the Finn ahead of him.

Daniel Ricciardo, who had started ahead of his Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate at the back of the grid after engine penalties rose to sixth at the flag, but with the caveat of front wing damage, which was replaced at his sole stop on lap forty.

The battle for seventh, and ‘Class B’ honours was won by Charles Leclerc and the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team. The Monegasque started seventh, and maintained position during the race, which included a daring move around the outside of Turn three on the Haas F1 Team car of Kevin Magnussen. 

Team-orders were also imposed by the Racing Point Force India F1 Team on Esteban Ocon, who let team-mate Sergio Pérez attack Magnussen to no avail, the positions were swapped back, as the Frenchman led the Mexican in ninth and tenth.

Max Verstappen was voted ‘Driver of the Day’ after rising from nineteenth to take fifth.
Credit: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Grosjean the first non-scorer

Romain Grosjean fell from out a top ten grid slot to take eleventh, ahead of Nico Hülkenberg’s Renault Sport Formula 1 Team car, who was eighteen seconds clear of Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber.

Both cars from the Williams Martini Racing and McLaren F1 Team teams finished fourteenth to eighteenth, with the Renault of Carlos Sainz, Jr being the meat in the sandwich, the Spaniard ending seventeenth after being passed by Stoffel Vandoorne in the closing laps after being hampered by blue flags.

Sergey Sirotkin was the last classified finisher, in eighteenth in his maiden home grand prix.

Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda suffered a double-DNF early on in the race, when both Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley suffered brake failure within seconds of each other, with both pulling into the pits moments after wild spins at turns four and two respectively for the Frenchman and New Zealander.

Sochi Autodrom Race Result

PositionNationality DriverTeamTimePoints
1stGBRLewis HamiltonMercedes1hr27m32.054s25
2ndFINValtteri BottasMercedes+2.545s18
3rdGERSebastian VettelFerrari+7.487s15
4thFINKimi RaikkonenFerrari+16.543s12
5thNEDMax VerstappenRed Bull+31.016s10
6thAUSDaniel RicciardoRed Bull+80.451s8
7thMONCharles LeclercSauber+93.762s6
8thDENKevin MagnussenHaas+1 lap4
9thFRAEsteban OconRacing Point Force India+1 lap2
10thMEXSergio PerezRacing Point Force India+1 lap1
11thFRARomain GrosjeanHaas+1 lap0
12thGERNico HulkenbergRenault+1 lap0
13thSWEMarcus EricssonSauber+1 lap0
14thESPFernando AlonsoMcLaren+1 lap0
15thCANLance StrollWilliams+1 lap0
16thBELStoffel VandoorneMcLaren+2 laps0
17thESPCarlos Sainz, JrRenault+2 laps0
18thRUSSergey SirotkinWilliams+2 laps0
DNF FRAPierre GaslyToro Rosso Mechanical 0
DNFNZLBrendon HartleyToro RossoMechanical 0

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