I welcome you to the Russian Grand Prix, the scene of the first Ferrari 1-2 in qualifying since the French Grand Prix in 2008 with Sebastian Vettel on pole from Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas.
Stoffel Vandoorne received a 15 place grid penalty for changing parts of his power unit, but given that we are on race 4 and you only get 4 power units for the whole season, it doesn’t bode well for McLaren. Maybe instead of replacing Alonso when he misses the Monaco Grand Prix for the Indianapolis 500 they should give Vandoorne Alonso’s car so he has a spare for when his breaks down!
Also hit with a grid penalty was Carlos Sainz – he got three places for taking out Lance Stroll in Bahrain.
It was a beautiful day in Sochi as the grid lined up, only for Fernando Alonso to discover his McLaren doesn’t want to race. But it did give us some brilliant team radio exchanges between Fernando and his engineer. His engineer suggested that he tried it again, only for Fernando to reply: “I have tried three times already, you try it!”
Fernando’s problem turned out to be terminal as he didn’t even finish the warm up lap, parking it in the pitlane entry – he couldn’t even make it back to the pitlane. This caused the start to be aborted, and another formation lap to be completed.
Finally the race got underway with Bottas shooting into the lead from third on the grid, and Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton slotting in behind him, leaving the fans wondering how Mercedes were planning to swap their drivers around this time as there are two cars between them.
Jolyon Palmer and Romain Grosjean didn’t make it past turn two, as both of them crashed out… and immediately start blaming each other! In Grosjean’s defence, Palmer could have crashed out all on his own, hit a wall and blamed it on the wall for getting in his way! But the stewards had to decide who was at fault, and as they were both out of the race they decided to leave it until the race had finished as any penalty would be applied to the following race.
Lance Stroll spun after contact from Hulkenberg, but kept going as the safety car is brought out to allow the marshals to clean up the mess from the Palmer/Grosjean crash. The stewards announced they were investigating Stroll/Hulkenberg.
Jolyon Palmer has had an awful weekend, the team had to change his engine before qualifying, only for him to throw the rebuilt car at the wall in Q1. I was surprised he didn’t blame the wall for that one too!
The safety car came back in at the end of lap three and Bottas immediately pulled out a 1.8 second lead – he knew if he didn’t want to yield to Hamilton he had to pull away at the front.
Hamilton started to moan about his car overheating, but he should’ve thought himself lucky that his car was still going, whereas Daniel Ricciardo’s brakes were so hot they were are on fire, forcing him to retire from the race.
This race is even more boring than the Chinese GP. 12 laps in and there had not been a single overtake. Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen were both given 5 second penalties for exceeding track limits and returning to the track the wrong side of the yellow cone. Magnussen vehemently tried to protest his innocence, but was told that there was nothing they could do about the penalty and he needed to concentrate on his race.
Hamilton was still moaning, but the team assured him it was not just him who was having problems with the car overheating, as the issue was also affecting Bottas.
Lap 21 and still nothing had changed, not even at the back. Not one overtake. There were not even any close battles happening on track.
Pascal Wehrlein pits, followed by Felipe Massa.
We finally had an overtake as Bottas lapped Kevin Magnussen – in a race this dull I am taking that as a legitimate pass!
The gap between Bottas and Vettel was down to 3.2 seconds as Bottas pitted. Kimi also pitted a lap later, as Bottas was flying on fresh tyres, and whatever Ferrari were trying to do with Vettel’s strategy doesn’t seem to be working. Unless it was their usual “let’s leave him out here as long as possible and wait until his tyres fall apart, and then we will settle for 4th place” strategy.
Hamilton pitted on lap 31, and was still moaning.
Raikkonen could not understand how Hamilton got in front of him when he came out the pits, only to be told not to panic and that the Mercedes in front was Bottas, and he was still comfortably in front of Hamilton… who was still moaning.
Ferrari left Vettel out even longer, finally pitting him on lap 35, 7 laps later than Bottas. They didn’t seem to be able to make up their minds on whether to bring him in or not, first telling him to box, only to change their minds two corners later, seriously Ferrari make up your minds!
Do you bring him in?
Do you leave him out?
In out / in out
You shake it all about
You left him out too late
Will it turn around?
That’s what Ferraris all about
Oh Sebastian Vettel
Oh Sebastian Vettel
Oh Sabastian Vettel
In/out? in/out? HA HA HA
He was lucky that Ferrari finally decided to pit him as it was close between him and team mate Kimi Raikkonen when he finally emerged from the pit lane.
Hamilton was still moaning.
It was starting to get close between Vettel and Bottas, as Ferrari knew they had fresher tyres, and Bottas had a massive flat spot on his left front. Ferrari’s long run pace on these tyres was impressive during Friday practice, but had they left it too long?
Felipe Massa was forced to pit for a second time with a slow puncture, costing him 6th place.
Valtteri Bottas was just about managing to keep the gap between himself and Vettel to just over one second, as he came across a few backmarkers, including Lance Stroll who was miraculously still going and was within 10 laps of his first Grand Prix finish.
Finally it was the final lap, and Felipe Massa was in between Bottas and Vettel, with Felipe leaving Vettel plenty of room for turn 4. But Vettel chose not to overtake him there, instead choosing to blame Felipe for blocking him unnecessarily.
But it is A WIN FOR VALTTERI BOTTAS, his first and the fifth win in the history of the sport following in the footsteps of Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen.
1 Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes 1:28:08.743 206.859
2 Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari +0.617 sec 206.835
3 Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari +11.000 sec 206.43
4 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +36.320 sec 205.449
5 Max Verstappen – Red Bull +1:00.416 sec 204.523
6 Sergio Perez – Force India +1:26.788 sec 203.52
7 Esteban Ocon – Force India +1:35.004 sec 203.209
8 Nico Hulkenberg – Renault +1:36.188 sec 203.164
9 Felipe Massa – Williams – 202.785
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. – Toro Rosso
Conclusions from round 4:
Valtteri Bottas can win races and Lewis Hamilton really needs to stop complaining. Lance Stroll can finish races, Felipe Massa did not get in Vettels way on purpose. Honda really need to stop thinking things can get worse, as they nearly always do. Russia needs dropping from the calendar, as that was one of the most boring F1 races I have ever seen! Not a single over take on the track, the only position swapping was in the pits or off the start line, not a good advert for the sport, even though it is wonderful to see a driver take his debut win.
Driver of the Day, fan vote: Valtteri Bottas
Driver of the Day: Fiona’s vote: Valtteri Bottas. After Bahrain he did a wonderful job to bite straight back, and Felipe Massa did not cost Vettel that race. If Ferrari really want to blame someone for losing that race, they need to look internally and hire some new strategists!
Stewards take no further action on Palmer Vs Grosjean.