Hamilton extends lead after Russia winposted in F130 | 09 | 2018

    LEWIS HAMILTON EXTENDED his Formula 1 World Championship lead to 50 points over the Ferrari of his nearest rival Sebastian Vettel. But the Mercedes driver sealed his third win in the Russian Grand Prix after his team-mate Valtteri Bottas was ordered to let him pass. (Related: Imprerious Hamilton dominates Singapore)

    The Finn, who started from pole position, led off the line with Hamilton successfully slipstreaming him to fend off the charge of third-placed Vettel. But the Mercedes 1-2 disappeared after the pitstops. (Related: Scot Sandy Mitchell bags third in Euro GT3 Silver Cup)

    Mercedes first pitted Bottas on lap 12, who was followed by Vettel. But the team delayed pitting Hamilton for another lap. When the four-time word champ rejoined the Circuit de Catalunya, he found himself in fourth behind Vettel’s Ferrari.  Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had started from 19th on the grid, had inherited the lead.

    Somewhat flummoxed by the situation, Mercedes then instructed Bottas to slow down and back Vettel up, and Hamilton moved quickly to sit in the German’s slipstream two laps later. Then, on  the run to Turn 2, Hamiton made a move to pass but Vettel appeared to move to the right twice in the process.

    Russia-GP-2.jpg

    Undaunted, Hamilton retaliated with a good run out of the corner and toughed it out on the outside through the long left-hand Turn 3 and nailed Vettel on the inside of Turn 4.

    The world championship leader then quickly caught Bottas and followed his team-mate for a few laps. But having given chase, Hamilton’s left-rear tyre developed a blister, and with Bottas now stuck behind the slower Verstappen Mercedes took action on lap 25.

    Russia-GP-3.jpg

    They simply instructed Bottas to slow and let Hamilton pass at Turn 13, which he did. Now sitting second, Hamilton then didn’t attack Verstappen. This led to Mercedes strategist James Vowles coming on to the radio to explain to a frustrated Bottas that he understood his concerns but had to make the team orders decision to secure Hamilton's position.

    Verstappen comfortably held off the two Mercedes before finally pitting on lap 43, releasing the two leaders with 10 laps remaining. Unchallenged for the remainder of the race, Hamilton led home another Mercedes 1-2, with Hamilton clinching the 70th grand prix win of his career. It was also the fifth year in succession a Mercedes had won at Sochi.

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    “Valtteri was an incredible gentleman today,” a rather muted Hamilton said afterwards. “Honestly, it’s the strangest day I can remember having in the sport in my career. I remember, we have crossed this situation and discussion before.

    “It’s always felt super uncomfortable, I was like ‘Look, I want to win the title right way’, that’s always how it is for me. I would say ‘Look, as racing drivers we exist to win, and if you tell us we can’t win, it’s like you are taking our air away, our life away’. It’s that deep.

    “I would never wish it upon anyone else and would never ask for it, ever. I made sure when we were in a meeting before, I was like ‘Just so you know, I’ve never gone to Toto and those guys; this is not how I want to win’.

    Russia-GP-6.jpg

    “Obviously, the team took the decision when they saw that my tyres were blistered and Vettel was charging from behind. There are stronger heads in the team who are like ‘We have to win, it’s all about the win. We have got to win both Championships, we don’t care who finishes ahead’.

    “I think ultimately, it’s really important right this second to first acknowledge Valtteri, because as I said he was just the ultimate gentleman. It is very weird to feel down, but we’ve also got to feel grateful to the guys back at the factory.

    “So many people are working flat-out to make sure we have a 1-2 like this, the team have just done an incredible job this weekend. We have to really embrace the moment still, but it’s definitely a victory on my list of wins that I am least proud of.”

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    Bottas, meanwhile, was magnanimous in his view of the events which led him to handing the race win to team-mate Hamilton.

    “It’s been a tough day,” the Finn, still waiting for his first win of 2018, admitted. “We got a good result for us as a team with maximum points, but for me personally it was a difficult race.

    “But I understand the situation. If you put yourself in the team leader’s shoes, for them it doesn’t matter if it is me or Lewis winning, as long as we are 1-2 we get the maximum points. For the end of the year, it’s only Lewis fighting for the Championship, I am not. So, for the team, it is always better that Lewis wins – that’s how it goes.

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    “It is not ideal for me as an athlete and a person, but that is a fact. We are playing as a team and I am prepared to play as a team. I took one for the team today, I will take one for the team tomorrow.

    “That’s how it goes, but I am also looking forward to next year, starting a new season. I know that today I was supposed to win and I could’ve won the race on equal terms. I know myself I am the winner of this weekend. I don’t have the trophy but it doesn’t matter. That’s how it is and I move on.”

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    Behind the three podium finishers, Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen took a muted fourth ahead of Verstappen. Daniel Ricciardo took sixth in the second Red Bull, ahead the the Sauber of Charles Leclerc with Kevin Magnussen eighth for Haas.

    The top 10 was rounded out by the Force India of Esteban Ocon, followed by his team-mate Sergio Perez.

    There were only two retirements in the race, both involving Toro Rosso. Team-mates Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley suffered independent spins almost simultaneously but made it back to the pits to retire their cars having suffered brake failures.

    F1 — Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom (Result):

    1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 53 laps

    
2. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 2.545s


    3. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 7.487s


    4. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Scuderia Ferrari + 16.543s


    5. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing + 31.016s


    6. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Aston Martin Red Bull Racing + 80.451s


    7. Charles Leclerc MON Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team + 98.390s


    8. Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team + 98.390s

    
9. Esteban Ocon FRA Racing Point Force India F1 Team + 1 lap

    
10. Sergio Perez MEX Racing Point Force India F1 Team + 1 lap


    11. Romain Grosjean FRA Haas F1 Team + 1 lap


    12. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault Sport Formula One Team + 1 lap

    13. Marcus Ericsson SWE Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team + 1 lap

    14. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren F1 Team + 1 lap

    15. Lance Stroll CAN Williams Martini Racing + 1 lap

    16. Stoffel Vandoorne BEL McLaren F1 Team + 2 laps

    17. Carlos Sainz Jr. ESP Renault Sport Formula One Team + 2 laps

    18. Sergey Sirotkin RUS Williams Martini Racing + 2 lap

    Retired:

    Pierre Gasly  FRA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 4 laps

    Brendon Hartley NZL Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 4 laps

    Related: Hamilton delivers Monza masterpiece

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    Jim McGill

     

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