Team orders saw Lewis Hamilton lead home a Mercedes 1-2 at the Russian GP as the Brackley squad maintained their 100% winning record in Sochi. Max Verstappen provided the excitement.
After a weekend of near perfect weather conditions, dark clouds hovered over the Sochi Autodrom in the build-up to the 53-lap Russian Grand Prix.
The top four lined up on the grid on the ultrasoft tyres as did Renault, who decided not to run in Q2 in order to start 11th and 12th and have free tyre choice on the day. Red Bull went with the soft tyres in the aim of having a long first stint.
Bottas led off the line while Vettel grabbed the slipstream off the Finn to challenge Hamilton. The Brit, though, picked up one of his own off his team-mate with great racing from the trio. Bottas led at the end of lap 1 ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 30, 2018
Max Verstappen had the best start of those with grid penalties as he jumped from P19 to P13. He was inside the top ten on lap 3. Daniel Ricciardo needed nine laps to break into the points.
Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley’s recoveries did not go as well as both spun before retiring their Toro Rossos on lap 6.
Up at the front Bottas was the first to pit, coming in on lap 13. His 1s lead became a 23s defict and a P5 as he rejoined behind Verstappen. Hamilton led by 2s ahead of Vettel, who was the next man in. He came out 3.5s behind Bottas.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 30, 2018
Hamilton made it the top three in three laps as he pulled into the pits on lap 15. Softs for the Mercedes driver, 2.5s stationary, and he rejoined the race side-by-side with Vettel, who managed to edge ahead, leapfrogging the Brit in the order. “Guys, how did that happen?”
Ferrari’s joy was short-lived as Hamilton, with the help of DRS, shot past his title rival at the second asking. As Hamilton laid down fastest laps, Vettel was unable to run with him and began to fall back. Kimi Raikkonen pitted on lap 19 to hand the lead to Verstappen, who started P19!
Running a long first stint the Dutchman began to hold up both Mercedes drivers and Vettel prompting Toto Wolff to press the ‘tactic’ button. Moments later Bottas moved over for Hamilton, giving the championship leader breathing room from Vettel. Bottas wasn’t happy but was told Hamilton has a “small blister” that could hurt his race.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 30, 2018
Force India pulled a similar move with Esteban Ocon giving way for Sergio Perez as they tried to take to the fight to Nico Hulkenberg. Force India made it clear that they would revert unless Perez put cars between himself and Ocon. Hulkenberg’s pit stop on lap 37 signalled the change of order.
Back at the front, Hamilton closed in on Verstappen for the lead but was not able to follow in the dirty air. Verstappen finally pitted on lap 43, the last driver to stop. Bolting on a set of ultrasoft tyres, he fell from first to fifth. Hamilton was leading by 1.2s ahead of Bottas. Vettel was a further 1.1s down.
Another spate of fastest laps from Hamilton saw him extend his lead over Bottas to 2 seconds while many wondered if Mercedes would give Bottas back the position on the line. They didn’t.
Hamilton won his eighth race of this season, hitting the 2000th points mark as a Mercedes driver. Bottas was second told that “positions stay as they are” when he asked “how are we going to finish the race?”. Vettel was third as Hamilton increased his lead in the championship to 50 points with five races remaining.
Raikkonen was fourth ahead of Verstappen, who wasn’t able to catch him after his late pit stop. Ricciardo was sixth.
Leclerc finished seventh to pick up his seventh points-scoring result of his debut campaign while Kevin Magnussen, Ocon and Perez completed the top ten. Hulkenberg was 11th.
Fernando Alonso’s 306th race ended in 14th place. Given a bit of advice on how to pass a car ahead, he summed up his afternoon: “Mate I’m 15th, I don’t care!”
Sergey Sirotkin was last at home.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 2.5
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 7.4
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 16.5
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 31.0
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 77.4
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber 93.7
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 LAP
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 1 LAP
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1 LAP
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 LAP
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 LAP
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1 LAP
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 LAP
15 Lance Stroll Williams 1 LAP
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 2 LAP
17 Carlos Sainz Renault 2 LAP
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 2 LAP
Did not finish
Gasly Toro Rosso brake failure
Hartley Toro Rosso brake failure