The Sochi Russian F1 race was set up for a Mercedes win, what with the pace the silver cars have been showing over the past few races. But it was left to Valtteri Bottas to allow championship leader ahead to give him the much needed point boost in his attempt to stave off Sebastian Vettel.
Bottas had picked up a much deserved pole with Hamilton sharing the front row, ahead of the pair of Ferraris. To add to the melee, the two Red Bulls looked in fine fettle for the race, with Verstappen managing to leverage his 19th position to fifth spot in only eight laps. He had started off with a bunch of penalties and seemed ready to redeem himself.
Meanwhile Gasly and Brendon Hartley both managed to spin their Toro Rosso cars, with the team putting it down to mechanical failures that caused their retirements so early.
Other than Verstappen’s lone charge, the race had settled into a pattern, when Bottas came in for his ultrasoft tyres, followed by Vettel on the next lap. Then came the strategy error that saw Hamilton brought in on the following lap, with a mistime that allowed Vettel to pip Hamilton at the end of the pitlane exit. This put Hamilton behind Vettel at a crucial point, just short of the midway mark, with Bottas up ahead. Hamilton then tried getting past the Ferrari, with Vettel shutting the door on him at first, leading to an investigation that deemed it a race incident.
Once Hamilton got ahead, it looked like the race would focus on the other teams with a battle royale going on between Force India, Haas (in the form of Magnussen), Renault (Hulkenberg) and Charles Leclerc in the Sauber.
Then came the two team order moves – Mercedes got Valtteri Bottas to move aside for Hamilton so that he could move up on Verstappen who hadn’t pitted till then. Then Ocon moved to let Perez ahead to allow him to charge Magnussen.
However, the Force India move was temporary as the pair swapped again after the unsuccessful attempt.
So Hamilton came in first, with Bottas in second and Vettel taking third. For a change it looked like no one on the podium was really happy.
Hamilton tried to put his feelings in words, “Valtteri was an incredible gentleman today. 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 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’. 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.”
Bottas added, “It’s been a tough day. We got a good result for us as a team with maximum points, but for me personally it was a difficult race. Although I already 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. “
2018 Formula 1 Drivers
|Car No||Name||Team||2018 season||2017 season|
|33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||173||168|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||146||200|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||53||100|
|31||Esteban Ocon||Force India||49||87|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||28||0|
|28||Brendan Hartley||Toro Rosso||2||0|
2018 Formula 1 Teams
|Team||2018 season||2017 season|
|Red Bull Racing||319||368|
|Force India Mercedes||43||187|
|Toro Rosso Honda||30||53|
2018 Formula 1 Races
|Japan||07/10/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas||Max Verstappen|
|Russia||20/09/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas||Sebastian Vettel|
|Singapore||16/09/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Max Verstappen||Sebastian Vettel|
|Italy||02/09/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Kimi Raikkonen||Valtteri Bottas|
|Belgium||26/08/2018||Sebastian Vettel||Lewis Hamilton||Max Verstappen|
|Hungary||29/07/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Sebastian Vettel||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Germany||22/07/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Britain||08/07/2018||Sebastian Vettel||Lewis Hamilton||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Austria||01/07/2018||Max Verstappen||Kimi Raikkonen||Sebastian Vettel|
|France||24/06/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Max Verstappen||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Canada||10/06/2018||Sebastian Vettel||Valtteri Bottas||Max Verstappen|
|Monaco||27/05/2018||Daniel Ricciardo||Sebastian Vettel||Lewis Hamilton|
|Spain||13/05/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas||Max Verstappen|
|Azerbaijan||29/04/2018||Lewis Hamilton||Kimi Raikkonen||Sergio Perez|
|China||15/04/2018||Daniel Ricciardo||Valtteri Bottas||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Bahrain||04/04/2018||Sebastian Vettel||Valtteri Bottas||Lewis Hamilton|
|Australia||25/03/2018||Sebastian Vettel||Lewis Hamilton||Kimi Raikkonen|