Hamilton extends lead in championship as Bottas is denied victory

Team orders came into play with Lewis Hamilton extended his Formula 1 title advantage over Sebastian Vettel with victory in the Russian Grand Prix after Mercedes ordered Valtteri Bottas to move aside.

Bottas led from pole and was running in the de facto race lead, behind the yet-to-pit Max Verstappen, when he was told to let Hamilton past to protect him from Vettel.

Hamilton’s eighth victory of the season means his lead over Vettel is now 50 points with five Grands Prix left and 125 points up for grabs after Bottas, who sacrificed a first win of 2018 for his team-mate, restricted the Ferrari driver to third.

Bottas held his lead at the start as a good Vettel launch allowed him to attack Hamilton through the Turn 1 kink, but Hamilton regrouped in Bottas’s slipstream and rebuffed the Ferrari.

Hamilton had such a good run behind his team-mate that he closed right up and locked up slightly under braking for Turn 2, which allowed Vettel to attack again through the ensuing long left-hander, but Hamilton held the place.

Bottas led until pitting on lap 12, with Vettel stopping on the next lap and Mercedes keeping Hamilton out another lap longer.

Mercedes told Bottas to slow down and back Vettel up, but it was not enough to prevent Vettel undercutting Hamilton and stealing second.

Hamilton moved quickly to respond and was in Vettel’s slipstream two laps later on the run Turn 2 but Vettel appeared to move to the right twice in the process.

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.

Hamilton caught and followed Bottas for several laps but started to develop a blister on his left-rear tyre, not helped by Bottas being backed up by the long-running Verstappen.

Mercedes acted on lap 25, telling Bottas to slow and let Hamilton by at Turn 13, which he did.

Hamilton moved into second but did not start attacking Verstappen, which frustrated Bottas and led Mercedes strategist James Vowles to tell Bottas over the radio that he understood his concerns but had to make the team orders decision to secure Hamilton’s position.

Verstappen continued to lead with relative comfort and extended a stunning first stint in which he rose from 19th to fifth in just seven laps.

Hamilton reported engine “hesitations” but as those concerns appeared to ease he attacked Verstappen on lap 42 but had the door slammed in his face.

Verstappen finally stopped a lap later, releasing the Mercedes pair with ten laps to go to ease clear to a comfortable one-two. Bottas asked how they would finish the race, indicating he wanted to be let back ahead, but was told they would maintain position.

Kimi Raikkonen was a muted fourth after Verstappen lacked the pace on fresh ultrasofts to mount a challenge in the closing stages.

Daniel Ricciardo made it back to sixth in the second Red Bull, having been passed by Verstappen at the start and failing to replicate the speed of his team-mate’s early charge.

Charles Leclerc produced a fine drive to take seventh, having ran as high as fifth early on, and claimed his first unofficial ‘Class B’ win of the season for Sauber.

Kevin Magnussen claimed eighth for Haas after fending off the Force Indias for the duration of the race, including an on-the-limit defence against Esteban Ocon early on.

Ocon finished ninth ahead of Sergio Perez having briefly led Perez ahead to try, unsuccessful, to pass the Haas.

The race featured only two retirements: 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.

The causes was not immediately determined but Toro Rosso had changed the rear brake duct blanking before the start.

So a muted celebrations for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton had gained an extra 7 points with this Russian Grand Prix victory but Valtteri Bottas was denied the top result in the sake of the championship.

Yet the star of the race was birthday boy Max Verstappen. Even with grid penalties, the recently turned 21 year old drove an incredible race from P19 to finish in the points with fifth. Excellent result for Red Bull Racing.

Russian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1h27m25.181s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 2.545s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 7.487s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 53 16.543s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 53 31.026s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 53 1m20.451s
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 53 1m38.390s
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 52 1 Lap
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 52 1 Lap
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 52 1 Lap
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 52 1 Lap
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 52 1 Lap
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 52 1 Lap
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 52 1 Lap
15 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 52 1 Lap
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 51 2 Laps
17 Carlos Sainz Renault 51 2 Laps
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 51 2 Laps
– Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 4 Brakes
– Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 4 Brakes

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 306
2 Sebastian Vettel 256
3 Valtteri Bottas 189
4 Kimi Raikkonen 186
5 Max Verstappen 158
6 Daniel Ricciardo 134
7 Kevin Magnussen 53
8 Nico Hulkenberg 53
9 Fernando Alonso 50
10 Sergio Perez 47
11 Esteban Ocon 47
12 Carlos Sainz 38
13 Pierre Gasly 28
14 Romain Grosjean 27
15 Charles Leclerc 21
16 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
17 Lance Stroll 6
18 Marcus Ericsson 6
19 Brendon Hartley 2
20 Sergey Sirotkin 1

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 495
2 Ferrari 442
3 Red Bull-Renault 292
4 Renault 91
5 Haas-Ferrari 80
6 McLaren-Renault 58
7 Force India-Mercedes 35
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 30
9 Sauber-Ferrari 27
10 Williams-Mercedes 7

7 thoughts to “Hamilton extends lead in championship as Bottas is denied victory”

  1. Russian Grand Prix race review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Valtteri Bottas has fond memories of Sochi, having earned his maiden Grand Prix victory at the Russian venue last year. But the Mercedes driver was asked to play the team game on Sunday, allowing Lewis Hamilton to ultimately claim a victory and extend his championship lead yet further over Sebastian Vettel. It was, by the Finn’s own admission, a result that, whilst great for the team, was difficult to accept…

    Bottas, who’d captured a superb pole on Saturday and was searching for his first win of the season, was asked to cede the lead to Hamilton with less than half of the race completed as the Silver Arrows looked to inflict maximum damage on Vettel and Ferrari in the title race. The Finn selflessly obliged, sacrificing personal glory for a result that not only ensured Mercedes retained their 100% record in Sochi, but allowed Hamilton to stretch his championship lead over Vettel, who came home third, to a massive 50 points.

    Hamilton, who, after falling behind in the pit stops, was forced to pass Vettel on track en route to what was his third victory in Sochi, later hailed Bottas ‘a real gentleman’, while Mercedes chief Toto Wolff also praised the Finn’s actions.

    Behind the front three, Max Verstappen – celebrating his 21st birthday – starred, climbing from 19th on the grid to fifth in just eight laps, which soon became the lead when the tyre strategies began to play out.

    The Dutchman ended up leading the most laps of anyone, but ultimately came home fifth, behind the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen but ahead of his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo. Unsurprisingly, Verstappen also picked up Driver of the Day honours with a huge majority.

    Sauber’s Charles Leclerc was another to shine, the future Ferrari driver finishing seventh ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, while the Force India pair of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez kept their noses clean this weekend to round off the top ten.

    Having slipstreamed into the lead from P3 on the grid last year, Bottas knew he needed to get off the line well – and that he did, with Vettel mounting an attack on Hamilton for P2 until the Briton picked up a tow from his team mate and stood firm into Turn 2 to keep the German at bay.

    Behind them, Verstappen was on a mission. The Dutchman started 19th on the grid, having landing a hat-trick of penalties this weekend, but made up 10 places in less than three laps, slicing through the midfield order with ease.

    But elsewhere in the Red Bull stable there was disarray as Toro Rosso endured a nightmare start. Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley suffered copycat spins early on, and the Italian squad soon retired both cars to the garage before five laps were up, with apparent brake issues on both machines.

    By Lap 8, Verstappen had fought his way all the way up to fifth, behind both Mercedes and Ferrari cars. At this stage, Hamilton was hot on the heels of race leader Bottas, trailing his team mate by 1.4s, while Vettel loomed close in his title rival’s rear-view mirrors, 2s further back.

    The Silver Arrows were the first frontrunners to roll the dice from a tactical point of view, bringing in race leader Bottas at the end of Lap 12 and replacing the Finn’s ultrasoft tyres for softs. Ferrari immediately hit back the following lap, calling Vettel in for the same tyre switch, with Hamilton following suit a lap later – a decision which went against the championship leader.

    As Hamilton prepared to return to the track, Vettel came flying down the pit straight, and the German managed to get his nose in front going into Turn 2 to split the Mercedes.

    ‘Guys, how did that happen?’ Hamilton asked his crew despondently – but he wouldn’t be behind for long. Intent on quickly reclaiming his position, Hamilton almost ran into the back of Vettel heading down to Turn 2 on lap 16 as the Ferrari driver closed the door in no uncertain terms. The stewards investigated the incident but deemed no further action was required – and by that stage Hamilton had already got back through, the Briton diving inside his fellow four-time world champion at Turn 4 after a brilliant pursuit through the ultra-quick Turn 3.

    That battle wasn’t the only one keeping fans on the edge of their seats, though. Force India, who had implemented stricter team orders after their Singapore saga, were finding it hard to get ahead of Haas’ Magnussen, all the while knowing they needed to up the pace to avoid being jumped by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who had started on soft rubber.

    Perez, third in the queue behind Ocon, asked if he could pass his team mate and have a go at Magnussen. The switch would eventually happen, but not before an even more significant one…

    That race-defining moment came on Lap 25, after Red Bull’s Verstappen inherited the lead when Ferrari pitted Raikkonen. The Dutchman was proving a distraction for the Mercedes pair, allowing Vettel to gain on them. And with Hamilton’s rear tyres beginning to blister, the call went in from the Mercedes pit wall to Bottas, asking the Finn to let his team mate past.

    Bottas duly obliged, and that strategy was replicated by Force India moments later, with Ocon giving Perez a chance to fight past the Magnussen. Ultimately the Mexican was unable to do so, and after nine laps – on Lap 35 – the Silverstone squad gave the position back to the Frenchman.

    Up front, Hamilton reported engine and tyre issues – but those concerns didn’t play out into anything significant, whose only concern was a half-move on Verstappen with 11 laps to go, which was repelled by the yet-to-stop Dutchman.

    Hamilton finally had the lead for the first time in Sochi when Verstappen, having driven 43 superb laps on the soft rubber, came in to pit, the birthday boy returning to the action in fifth ahead of Ricciardo – who was given a new nose when he made his one and only pit stop three laps before his team mate.

    Mercedes – knowing a race win for Hamilton was crucial for both championship quests – allowed their reigning world champion to keep top spot, with Bottas – who had asked if the positions would be reversed – forced to settle for second on a track he has enjoyed much success at.

    Vettel came home where he started, and he now trails the Brit by 50 points with just five races of the season remaining…

  2. Lewis Hamilton admitted this team order win “doesn’t feel spectacular” as Valtteri Bottas was denied the top result. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton admitted that his Russian Grand Prix win felt far from “spectacular” after being gifted victory through Mercedes team orders.

    Hamilton had shadowed Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the early stages of the race, but the pair were asked to swap positions after the pitstops amid concerns that Hamilton could be exposed to title rival Sebastian Vettel.

    With Mercedes not interested in re-swapping the places late on, it meant Hamilton finished ahead of Bottas to extend his title advantage over Vettel to 50 points.

    Speaking after the race, Hamilton admitted that it had been a tough event for Mercedes.

    “It is actually quite a difficult day because Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and was a real gentleman to let me by,” said Hamilton.

    “Obviously he is now not fighting for the championship and it has been such a great weekend for the team.

    “The team did such an exceptional job to have this advantage on Ferrari and have a 1-2, and usually we would be elated.

    “But I can understand how difficult it was for Valtteri today and he deserved to win. But championship-wise, as a team, we are trying to win both championships, and I think today was a real team effort.

    “While it doesn’t feel spectacular, I know he is going to do great in the following races to come.”

    Bottas clearly looked deflated after the race, with team boss Toto Wolff having told him over team radio following the chequered flag that the team orders matter would be discussed later.

    Asked for his feelings, Bottas said: “A difficult day. Obviously a good result for us as a team. We got maximum points, but personally as everyone says, quite a difficult race.”

    Pushed about the pre-race discussions about team orders, Bottas said: “For sure we always go through all the scenarios and all the facts.

    “Lewis is now fighting for the championship and we are fighting for the constructors. We always have a plan but today it is always difficult to predict what will happen in the race and how it is going to go.”

  3. Toto Wolff says Mercedes faced a scenario that it had not predicted ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as he explained the reasons behind its team orders swap.

    Pole-sitter and early race leader Valtteri Bottas was ordered to move aside for teammate Lewis Hamilton after the first round of pitstops at Sochi, as Mercedes grew concerned about the threat from the pursuing Sebastian Vettel.

    Wolff was clearly far from happy about the difficult call, and said that the team would need to reflect on things after encountering a situation that had not come up in the morning’s meeting to discuss team tactics.

    “You want to control everything and there are a million scenarios we discussed in the morning, but we had a different one in the race,” Wolff told Sky F1.

    “So we need to take a step back after Sochi, fly back home, analyse and see what do we learn from a day like today.”

    Although Wolff accepted he would have preferred not to have imposed team orders, he says that the team also could not throw away the opportunity to bag as many points as possible for Hamilton.

    “We are all racers at heart and what we want to see is out and out racing and may the quickest man win,” he said.

    “Then we are a bunch of rational guys and we discuss things in the morning and then everything is different in the race. And this is what happened today.

    “We should be over the moon with a 1-2 and fundamentally we are, but we also feel that it went against Valtteri. It would have been a race win for him, and we changed it.”

    He added: “It is deflating for the driver and it is deflating for a team. But there is a harsh reality also that on such a day you can extend the lead by seven points more, for a championship that has been very tough and very difficult at times and you have to take it and this is what we did today.”

    Wolff also said that the team orders “mess” had ultimately been triggered by Hamilton blistering his tyres by needing to overtake Sebastian Vettel on track.

    “It was one lap too late with Lewis and he lost a position to Sebastian,” he said about the timing of Hamilton’s stop. “This triggered let’s call it the mess, because we came out behind Sebastian.

    “Lewis needed to attack, and that caused the blister and that blister we needed to protect when Seb was all over him.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  4. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted that the Sochi team orders “not what I wanted”. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton says he never asked for, and never wanted, the use of team orders in the Russian Grand Prix to help him win the race.

    The world championship leader was gifted victory at Sochi on Sunday after teammate Valtteri Bottas was ordered to move aside for him.

    The controversial move left Hamilton feeling deflated after the race, as he made clear that neither in pre-race discussions nor over the radio had he wanted Bottas to give up the win for him.

    “There was obviously a team call,” said Hamilton, whose win has helped him extend his world championship advantage over Sebastian Vettel to 50 points.

    “There were obviously discussions before about what may or may not happen, and I just made sure, I said to Valtteri, I assured him that it was not something I asked for.

    “That is something the team feel is right for us to do. It is a very awkward position to be in.”

    Hamilton insisted that during the phase of the race where the team orders call was made – as race leader Verstappen was slowing the pace and Vettel was pushing hard from the back – he had actually just wanted Bottas to go quicker as they ran in second and third spot.

    “They told me on the radio that Valtteri was going to let me go, which is not what I wanted,” he said. “I just said ‘just tell him to speed up’ because I had Sebastian on my tail, it was quite close.

    “Passing him did not feel good, in that instant, in Turn 13. And I didn’t know what was planned for the end.

    “I was waiting to get some news or something like that, but I knew that the team wanted it to end that way. If they’d made that call, then it confirmed to me that they wanted to end that way.”

    Bottas said that he understood the reasons for Mercedes making the call, even though it was personally hard to accept, and he had never expected to get the place back at the end.

    Asked if he thought the team would keep Hamilton ahead to the end, Bottas said: “Yeah… I could expect that. Because obviously Lewis is fighting for the drivers’ championship and I’m not.

    “And the way we finished, compared to the beginning, makes no difference to the constructors points. So yeah, I was expecting that.”

    Although Bottas’s conduct in Russia has opened the door to Hamilton gifting him a win back later in the year, the Finn was not convinced he would happily accept a victory like that.

    “No, I think it’s more fun to race for it,” he said.

  5. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel defends the Mercedes team’s decision on changing the race order. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel has defended Mercedes’ tactics in the Russian Grand Prix, calling the rival Formula 1 team’s decision to move Valtteri Bottas aside for Lewis Hamilton a “no-brainer”.

    Hamilton inherited victory at Sochi when Mercedes told Bottas, who was on course for his first win of the season, to let the championship leader past.

    Victory for Hamilton, combined with Bottas keeping Vettel at bay for the rest of the race, means Vettel trails the Mercedes driver by 50 points with five races to go.

    Vettel said: “Well done to both of them, they played together as a team very well.

    “In their defence, all the questions – I know you guys love controversy so therefore ask naughty questions to them as individuals, but I think in the position they are it’s a no-brainer what they did today.

    “Maybe not all the questions are justified.”

    Mercedes had used team orders before the race-defining call, having asked Bottas to slow down and back Vettel up to try to avoid Hamilton – who pit a lap later than Vettel – from being overtaken by the Ferrari when he stopped.

    Although that failed and Vettel got ahead, Hamilton was able to re-pass his rival on his way to an eighth win of the season that means he is two victories clear of Vettel in the fight for the 2018 crown.

    There are 125 points available this season but the gap is the largest it has been all year.

    “I’m clever enough, I wasn’t a genius in maths but I was clever enough to pay attention to make out for myself that it’s not getting easier if we lose points,” said Vettel.

    “We have to be happy with third, and settle with that for today.

    “I still believe in our chance, yes. Obviously it’s not getting bigger if you finish behind but who knows.

    “It takes one DNF and all of a sudden things look different. Ideally two! Which I’m not wishing to Lewis, but you never know what happens.

    “We need to stay on top of our game, which maybe we haven’t been completely this weekend, and make sure from where we are now we focus on winning the last races.”

  6. Max Verstappen abandoned thoughts of a late-race surge on new tyres in the Russian Grand Prix so he could save his engine for the rest of the season.

    The Dutchman pulled off a brilliant charge from the back of the grid to lead much of the race at Sochi, as he ran an extended stint on soft tyres.

    Having left his switch to ultrasofts until just 12 laps from the end, a series of quick laps would have been enough to put him on to the tail of the Ferrari cars ahead of him.

    But his Red Bull boss Christian Horner revealed after the race that the decision was made for Verstappen to hold his position in fifth – and play the long-game in not over-stressing his power unit.

    “It was a shame he had to make the stop really, but of course it is mandatory,” Horner told Sky about Verstappen’s opening stint.

    “The other compounds were very fragile, so we stopped as late as we could, but we could see already they were starting to chunk up a little bit.

    “At that point you are too far behind Kimi to have a go at him, so it was a question of we took the penalty of the engines here, let’s save these now for the races coming up.”

    Horner said that Verstappen’s “awesome” climb up the field in the opening stages had shown that Red Bull had had a car in Russia that could have taken the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari if they had not started from the back.

    “I think we had a really competitive race car this weekend,” he said. “I think we would have been in the mix, and of course early on in the race they all start pacing themselves.

    “We had a car that was very good on its tyres today. There was no sign of any blistering on the soft tyres for us today and it would have been nice to start in normal grid positions.

    “But we have salvaged a good result out of this, and we’ve got a couple of engines up our sleeves for the final five races.”

    He added: “We were more competitive here than we thought we would be. I think we could have taken Ferrari on yesterday.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  7. Lewis Hamilton truly earned his wins in Italy and Singapore after putting in a pair of superlative drives. But the championship leader was quick to recognise he owed victory in Russia to team mate Valtteri Bottas, who dutifully followed team orders and ceded position – even if it left a bad taste in the mouth of both drivers…

    Bottas had put in a rousing drive on Saturday to take his second pole position of the season, before leading off the line and settling into a comfortable lead over Hamilton early on in the race. After the pit stops – and following a brief but hair-raising battle between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – the Mercedes drivers were back to formation flying, Bottas in second, Hamilton in third, the net leaders of the race just waiting for the long-stinting leader Max Verstappen to pit.

    But then, with a degree of inevitability came the call for Bottas to make way for Hamilton. Bottas did as he was told, moving smartly out of the way in Turn 13, but huffed down the radio afterwards when Hamilton failed to make inroads into Verstappen’s lead.

    As the race drew to its conclusion, Bottas came back on the radio again. “How are we going to finish the race?” “Positions stay as they are. We’ll talk about it after the race,” came the reply. Bottas had officially had his wings clipped, and Hamilton duly swept over the line to record his eighth win of the season, 25 points in his pocket and a full 50-point advantage over Vettel in the championship race, after the Ferrari driver had finished third. But smiles and high fives were in short supply as both Mercedes drivers entered parc ferme…

    “Difficult day,” brooded Bottas afterwards. “Obviously a good result for us as a team. We got maximum points, but personally, as everyone saw, it was quite a difficult race.”

    If Bottas was downcast, his team mate was hardly elated either.

    “It’s actually quite a difficult day,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by. He’s now not fighting for the championship as where we are. It’s just been such a great weekend for the team. The team have done such exceptional job to have this advantage on Ferrari and have a one-two. Usually, you’d just be elated, but I can understand how difficult it was for Valtteri.

    “But really, he did a fantastic job today and deserved to win. But championship-wise, as a team, we’re trying to win both championships, and today, it was a real team effort.”

    In the official FIA press conference later on, Hamilton elaborated on how the team orders scenario had played out during the race.

    “I said ‘just tell him to speed up’, so they told me on the radio that Valtteri’s going to let you go, which is not what I wanted,” he said.

    “Naturally, passing him did not feel good in that instant, in Turn 13. I didn’t know what was planned for the end… but I knew that the team wanted it to end that way, if they’d made that call and been on the phone to me then they wanted it to end that way. But honestly, it’s very hard to find the right words.

    “It’s a very strange feeling. We’ve had a one-two, we’ve dominated as a team this weekend, the team have done an incredible job and it’s never, ever in my whole life how I’ve wanted to win a race. But that’s why I just want to shine it onto Valtteri because there’s not many team mates who would do something like that.”

    The man ultimately responsible for the Mercedes drivers’ switcheroo was Team Principal Toto Wolff – and the Austrian himself admitted that, while the situation had been far from ideal, a tight fight with Ferrari throughout 2018 had left him with little choice.

    “Today we should be over the moon with a one and two, and fundamentally we are, but we also feel that it went against Valtteri,” he said. “It would have been a race win for him and we changed it.

    “Valtteri’s such a tremendous team player. Lewis was far back and we told him to switch position in Turn 13 and he did it immediately and this is what, within the team, you want to have, because you need to rely on those guys, in the same way they have to rely on us. This is what makes it feel even worse, but a win is a win with 50 points advantage feels good.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

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