Lewis Hamilton takes advantage of Ferrari feud to claim fourth Russian GP title

Having disobeyed team orders Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire mid-race

Lewis Hamilton stands on his Mercedes car  to celebrate after his win at the  Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. Photograph: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton stands on his Mercedes car to celebrate after his win at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. Photograph: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

 

Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix taking victory against the odds as Ferrari fell to internecine strife and mechanical failure. Valtteri Bottas was in second, with Charles Leclerc third. Max Verstappen finished in fourth place having started from ninth after a five-place grid penalty. Carlos Sainz impressed again with fifth for McLaren. Sebastian Vettel, having disobeyed team orders, was forced to retire mid-race.

Hamilton executed perfectly once he had taken the lead, after Mercedes’ decision to start the race on the medium tyres paid off. Ferrari, who had the quicker car, face an awkward debrief as Vettel repeatedly ignored orders to let his team-mate past after taking the lead early in the race and their strategy then cost Leclerc second.

Vettel has form in disobeying team orders, famously when he passed Mark Webber in Malaysia at 2013 – the Multi21 incident – where the agreement was to hold station in a one-two. Vettel ignored it and went on to win. Leclerc was the victim this time and will expect an explanation.

This is Hamilton’s 82nd career win and his fourth in Russia, having taken the flag previously in 2014, 2015 and last year. The victory continues the Mercedes hegemony at Sochi, the team remain unbeaten here since the meeting was first held in 2014.

Mercedes and Hamilton had come into the race expecting to be strong at a circuit at which they have good form. But the upgrades Ferrari had brought so successfully to Singapore were working again this weekend remarkably well. With the Ferrari so quick the British driver knew he needed to take the lead and with Mercedes playing an impressive strategic game, once he was he was in front Hamilton took advantage. He was unsurprisingly delighted at his ninth win of the season under huge pressure and to secure a one-two for his team.

Mercedes now have eight one-two finishes and 11 wins from 16 races as they continue to retain control on the championship, while Hamilton leads Bottas by 73 points. Five races remain this season.

Vettel had jumped Hamilton off the start line with a perfect start on the softer tyres as the British driver had a little wheelspin. He then passed him through the turn one kink and following in the slipstream of his team-mate, went past Leclerc into turn two to take the lead. Leclerc had given Vettel the tow to prevent Hamilton taking advantage of it.

These opening moments created Ferrari’s headaches. After a short safety car period, they confirmed they would swap Leclerc into the lead later in the race because he had given Vettel the slipstream on that opening lap. The team said they had discussed different scenarios pre-race of which this was one. They indeed ordered the German to let him pass but Vettel was having none of it, first arguing he would have taken the place anyway and then that Leclerc was not close enough to let his team-mate through.

As the heads were shaking on the Ferrari pit wall, Leclerc issued his riposte insisting he had respected the plan but Vettel still refused to let him by and extended his lead.

With Hamilton closing, Ferrari had to accede to Vettel and let him hold the place, telling Leclerc they would still do the swap later in the race.

Leclerc then pitted first on lap 23 to take the medium tyre, while Hamilton and Vettel stayed out. Ferrari had kept Vettel out longer, when he pitted on lap 26 Leclerc had put in good times and Vettel emerged behind him. The German’s pit stop had been half a second longer than Leclerc’s and Ferrari had the switch they desired.

It was ultimately moot, however, as Vettel’s race almost immediately ended as his car ground to halt with a hybrid failure. It prompted a Virtual Safety Car under which Hamilton took advantage to pit on lap 28, taking the soft tyres. The shorter stop gave Hamilton the lead and he had the faster rubber. Ferrari, under a subsequent safety car, opted to pit Leclerc again to also take the soft tyres but in doing so he lost second place.

Hamilton nailed the restart, while Leclerc went after Bottas, but the Finn held the place stoutly and Leclerc could not pass. Ferrari’s second stop had cost Leclerc second, while Hamilton, flawlessly opened and then held his lead to the flag.

Alexander Albon was in sixth for Toro Rosso in front of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, Lando Norris was in eighth for McLaren, with Haas’s Kevin Magnussen in ninth and Nico Hulkenberg in 10th for Renault. – Guardian

RESULTS

Final Positions after 53 laps: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 33mins 38.992secs, 2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:33:42.821, 3 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:33:44.204, 4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:33:53.202, 5 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 1:34:17.340, 6 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren 1:34:24.881, 7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:34:27.720, 8 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:34:36.741, 9 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:34:37.771, 10 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:34:38.833, 11 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:34:39.813, 12 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:34:41.488, 13 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:34:47.902, 14 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:34:49.068, 15 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:34:52.338

Not classified: 16 Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 28 laps completed, 17 George Russell (Gbr) Williams 27 laps completed, 18 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 26 laps completed, 19 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 24 laps completed, 20 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 0 laps completed

Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton 1 35.761 lap 51

World Championship standings – Drivers: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 322pts, 2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 249, 3 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 215, 4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 212, 5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 194, 6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 69, 7 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren 66, 8 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 52, 9 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 35, 10 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 34, 11 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 34, 12 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 33, 13 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 33, 14 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 31, 15 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 20, 16 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 19, 17 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 8, 18 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 4, 19 Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1, 20 George Russell (Gbr) Williams 0

Manufacturers: 1 Mercedes GP 571pts, 2 Ferrari 409, 3 Red Bull 311, 4 McLaren 101, 5 Renault 68, 6 Scuderia Toro Rosso 55, 7 Racing Point 52, 8 Alfa Romeo Racing 35, 9 Haas F1 28, 10 Williams 1

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