Russian Grand Prix Recap: Bottas Wins, Hamilton Penalized
For the first time since the season-opener in July, Valtteri Bottas is a Formula One race winner.
The 31-year-old Finn took victory Sunday in the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, taking advantage of a pair of penalties handed to his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas snatched the lead on lap 16 and never rescinded it after that, claiming his ninth career Grand Prix victory.
With the win, Bottas took 11 points out of Hamilton’s championship points lead, taking a bonus point for setting the fastest lap to increase his point total to 161. Still, he sits 44 points behind Hamilton’s 205, requiring the Finn to have a mostly mistake-free final seven races to prevent Hamilton from winning his seventh championship.
Hamilton started from pole position and got off to a rather nice start but was placed under investigation by race stewards for practice start violations. On his way to the grid, the Briton stopped on the track in unpermitted areas, prompting two five-second penalties, which erased his lead and ultimately relegated him to third behind Bottas and Red Bull Racing Dutchman Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was upset with the penalties and showed his displeasure by grumbling and complaining over his team radio throughout the race while also criticizing his team for the timing of his pit stop. In his post-race interview, he gave short and blunt answers to also voice his frustration.
At this point, Hamilton has good reason to heed to the stewards. As a result of Sunday’s incidents, he initially had two penalty points added to his FIA Super License, but those were rescinded shortly after the race. Still, he remains with eight penalty points from earlier incidents, four short of the 12 necessary to warrant a race ban.
Hamilton entered the day with a chance to tie the all-time Formula One wins record, his 90 victories being one shy of legend Michael Schumacher’s 91. But on a day that marked 500 races since Schumacher’s first victory, Hamilton’s penalties prevented him from having a chance at such history.
Hamilton was not the only driver to have a frustrating day. On the opening lap, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz hit curbs, which sent him off track in turn two, and could not navigate the runoff chicane without hitting the barrier with his left front. Sunday’s result marks the second straight DNF for the Spaniard, just two races removed from a spectacular second and near-win at the Italian Grand Prix three Sundays ago.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who stood on the podium with Sainz in Italy, also saw his Russian Grand Prix end on the first lap. Exiting turn two, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc made contact with Stroll’s right rear, sending the Canadian into the wall. Like Sainz, Stroll crashed out of the Tuscan Grand Prix on Sept. 13 and is on a streak of two DNFs.
As the race progressed, there were also some oddities. On lap 26, Renault drivers Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo attempted to swap position to allow Ricciardo to make up ground ahead. Awkwardly, Ocon elected to let his teammate through at the turn two braking zone, forcing Ricciardo to pass him on the outside and cut the corner. Because he missed the runoff chicane, Ricciardo earned a five-second penalty, as the race director had sternly warned that that chicane must be taken to rejoin the track in that area. Ricciardo was ultimately unaffected, however, as he finished in fifth, ahead of Leclerc in sixth. Ocon would finish seventh.
More calamity at turn two occurred on lap 43 when a virtual safety car was deployed as a result of Haas driver Romain Grosjean driving through the bollards that made up the runoff chicane. Although Grosjean continued the race, the VSC was necessary for track marshals to clean debris from the track and repair the bollards.
Moving through the top 10, there were plenty of good finishes to be found. Charles Leclerc made up four places throughout the race to finish sixth, a fine result for this year’s underperforming Ferrari. Both Scuderia AlphaTauri cars of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly crossed the line in eighth and ninth respectively, the former doing so at his home race. Rounding out the points was Thai Red Bull Racing driver Alexander Albon, who powered from 15th on the grid to finish 10th.
Logan Groeneveld-Meijer is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.