F1: Bottas victorious in Russia
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Valterri Bottas bounced back in form as the Finn won the Russian GP, the scene of his first ever F1 win in 2017, ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton as the Brit received in-race time penalties.
27th September 2020
Valterri Bottas felt that he should have won in Mugello but today the Finn got his championship challenge back on track with his second win of the season.
Having started on the Medium tyre, Bottas managed to jump Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the start of the race to sit in second behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas challenged and kept the gap to under two and a half seconds until Hamilton pitted.
Hamilton's pre-race mistake costs the Brit a record-equalling opportunity
On the way to the grid before the race, Hamilton practised his race start in the wrong area of the pit-lane. Instead of practising his start at the start of the pit-lane, Hamilton chose to do it at the end. It was closer to the track, that isn't allowed, which earned him two separate five second time penalties.
Hamilton started on the Soft tyre and the early Safety Car helped him prolong his early stint with the Brit ignoring his team and choosing to stay out a couple of laps longer. Making his pit-stop on Lap 18, Hamilton was stationary in his Mercedes pit-box for 10 seconds before his crew could work on his car.
He rejoined in tenth and began his fightback although he still could not understand why the team had pitted him so early and the confusion over the penalties.
Renault team orders leaves Ricciardo pushing hard
Results in the past few races had really put the French squad back in the fight over third in the Constructors Championship battling with McLaren and Racing Point. Qualifying from both Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, both inside the top 10, saw them running in third and fourth before the first round of pit-stops.
Having both qualified on the Soft tyre, they, along with Racing Point's Sergio Perez, pitted early with Ocon the lead Renault driver. After both Renault's had made their pit-stops, Perez pitted and rejoined ahead with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in between the battling trio of drivers having not made a pit-stop.
The decision was made at Renault after Ocon was given a number of laps to pass the Ferrari but failed to do so and that meant Perez was streaking away from both Renault's. Ocon let Ricciardo past just before Turn 1 but the Australian ran wide and went over the sausage kerbs which the drivers are not meant to do.
It was inevitable that Ricciardo would receive a time penalty from the stewards as they had warned all the drivers before the race that if they ran wide, they would have to pay the price of a five second time penalty. This prompted a "can-do" approach from the Aussie.
Ricciardo's Engineer: "You do have a five second penalty for the Turn 2 incident"
Ricciardo: "Ok. I'll drive faster"
Bottas and Verstappen remain untroubled upfront
With Hamilton out of the picture, Bottas kept his foot to the floor and increased his gap to the Red Bull driver. Verstappen, who had complained of the lack of grip from his rear tyres early on in the race, still kept to under three seconds behind the Mercedes duo.
Out of the two, Verstappen pitted first and rejoined in fourth and crucially ahead of Hamilton by about six seconds. Bottas made his pit-stop on Lap 26, rejoined in the lead and had a comfortable gap to Verstappen who had the Alpha Tauri of Daniil Kvyat and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to overtake before he could slot back into second place.
Ferrari teamwork results in Leclerc splitting the Renault's
Leclerc narrowly missed out on a spot in Q3 but a penalty for Red Bull's Alexander Albon, the Monegasque was promoted to tenth. Despite his first-lap tangle with Lance Stroll, which was one of the incidents that brought out the Safety Car, he kept his head down and managed to make his Medium tyres last to until Lap 28.
By the time of his pit-stop, he was running in second, albeit out of position to the drivers around him with Bottas ahead and Verstappen breathing down his neck. He rejoined in between Ricciardo and Ocon in sixth, seventh and eighth.
Leclerc would not have rejoined in between the Renault's if it wasn't for the solid defensive driving from team-mate Sebastian Vettel earlier on in the race which slowed both Ricciardo and Ocon down a touch.
The battling mid-field provides great racing
Kvyat, who ran in fourth until his pit-stop, rejoined in eighth and on fresher tyres wanted to score points at his home race. He set about catching Ocon in seventh but again, this would not have been possible if the Frenchman wasn't held up by Vettel in the opening stint of the race. The Russian's team-mate, Pierre Gasly, overtook Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen for ninth just before the Finnish driver pitted.
The sole McLaren of Lando Norris, who fell towards the back of the pack after slowing down to avoid his stricken team-mate of Carlos Sainz Jr at the start of the race, had made his way through the field to run in tenth with 17 Laps to go. He pitted at the end of Lap 1 for the Hard tyre and had made the tyres last.
One of the other drivers to drop back at the start of the race was Albon who started the race in 15th after a gearbox penalty. Having pitted twice, he put a great move on Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi to move up into 13th with 15 Laps to go. He set about catching the Haas duo of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
Albon made quick-work of both of the Haas's and was catching Norris for tenth. Giovinazzi and Vettel both got past Grosjean in quick succession with the Frenchman dropping to 15th. When battling Vettel, Grosjean ran off the track and hit the polystyrene boards and this brought the Virtual Safety Car out as marshals installed new boards. Gasly pitted under the VSC and rejoined in 11th behind both Norris and Albon.
Bottas eases home to collect second win of the season
The gap between Bottas and Verstappen remained relatively stable at 11 seconds until they started to lap drivers and the gap came down to just under six seconds. Everyone up until 11th, Giovinazzi, had been lapped by Bottas. Ocon was still desperately holding onto 7th but still had Kvyat breathing down his neck as he had done for the past twenty or so laps.
Taking the maximum points away from Sochi, including the bonus point for fastest lap, Bottas came home to win for the second time this season with Verstappen a further eight seconds down the road.
Hamilton leaves Russia with still quite a commanding lead in the championship, 44 points ahead of Bottas with the Mercedes duo on 205 and 161 points each. Verstappen's becoming more distant in third on 128 points.
In the Constructor's Championship, Mercedes pretty much have the title in the bag on 366 points with Red Bull their nearest challengers on 192. The battle for third is headed by McLaren, but only just on 106 points with Racing Point and Renault nipping at their heels on 104 and on 99. After 10 rounds, Williams are the only team yet to score this season.