Russian Grand Prix: Hamilton wins after Ferrari’s race implodes

Formula 1

Ferrari’s Russian Grand Prix imploded after Sebastian Vettel sparked a team-orders controversy then retired, causing an ill-timed virtual safety car that handed Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton victory.

Vettel refused to let team-mate Charles Leclerc back into the lead after drafting past him and Hamilton at the start, but eventually retired from the grand prix following an engine failure.

Leclerc had got himself back ahead of Vettel and into the net lead of the race by this point by stopping early, but Vettel parked his car on-track and caused a virtual safety car.

That allowed Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to make their pitstops during the caution period, which they converted into an unexpected one-two finish as Leclerc finished a frustrated third.

Vettel got a mega run from third place at the start, passing Hamilton almost immediately and then drafting Leclerc on the run to Turn 2, taking the lead.

The race was immediately neutralised under a safety car because of a three-car clash involving Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Giovinazzi found himself between both cars under braking for Turn 4, made contact with Ricciardo on the inside and pitched the Renault into Grosjean, whose Haas speared into the barriers on the outside.

As the Haas was recovered, it emerged that Ferrari had ordered Leclerc not to fight Vettel if Vettel used the tow to get ahead at the start, and agreed to swap the drivers back when racing resumed.

However, one week after Leclerc was angered by Ferrari’s strategy handing Vettel the win in Singapore, Vettel defied an instruction to let Leclerc past, and then proceeded to pull away from his disgruntled team-mate.

Leclerc was the first of the leaders to pit, and used his four laps on fresh mediums to set a searing pace that meant he moved ahead of Vettel when the race leader stopped on lap 26 of 53.

Shortly after rejoining the track, Vettel suffered an apparent MGU-K failure, and crawled to a halt.

That caused a VSC and was a double whammy for Ferrari, as Hamilton and Bottas had stayed out and Leclerc was still well outside the Mercedes drivers’ pitstop window in the event of a caution.

Hamilton and Bottas duly pitted as Leclerc circulated at considerably reduced speed, changing to soft tyres and rejoining first and third.

George Russell then suffered a bizarre crash under the VSC, thanks to an unspecified failure, which turned it into a full safety-car period.

Ferrari opted to sacrifice Leclerc’s track position to switch him from mediums to softs, dropping him to third behind Bottas but eliminating Mercedes’ tyre advantage in terms of age and compound.

However, despite Leclerc’s best efforts, he was unable to mount a serious attack on Bottas at any point after the restart.

That left Hamilton in the clear to take his 82nd victory in F1 in unexpected circumstances and extend his championship lead over Bottas to 72 points with five races remaining.

Max Verstappen finished fourth after a quiet race. The Red Bull driver had started ninth after a five-place grid penalty and lost touch with the leaders as he worked his way through to fifth early on.

He used the VSC to switch to mediums and ran to the finish nine seconds adrift of Leclerc.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon finished fifth despite starting from the pitlane, rising from the tail of the top 10 during the final stint.

He demoted Carlos Sainz Jr to sixth during that ascension, denying Sainz a top-five finish for McLaren – although the Spaniard still earned best-of-the-rest honours after heading the midfield battle all afternoon.

Racing Point driver Sergio Perez overcame Kevin Magnussen to finish seventh, as Magnussen crossed the line eighth but was demoted to ninth at the flag.

He received a five-second penalty for leaving the track at Turn 2 during his unsuccessful defence of seventh from Perez.

The second McLaren of Lando Norris was the sole beneficiary, moving up to eighth, as Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg dropped too far back to also move ahead of Magnussen and thus finished 10th.

Robert Kubica was the only other retirement. His Williams team ended his race shortly after Russell’s crash “to conserve parts”.

Result – 53 laps

Pos Driver Car Laps Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1h33m38.992s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 3.829s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 5.212s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 53 14.210s
5 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 53 38.348s
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 53 45.889s
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 53 48.728s
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 53 57.749s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 53 58.779s
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 53 59.841s
11 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 53 1m00.821s
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 53 1m02.496s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 53 1m08.910s
14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 53 1m10.076s
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 53 1m13.346s
Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 28 Retirement
George Russell Williams/Mercedes 27 Retirement
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26 Power Unit
Daniel Ricciardo Renault 24 Accident damage
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 0 Collision

Drivers’ standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Lewis Hamilton 322
2 Valtteri Bottas 249
3 Charles Leclerc 215
4 Max Verstappen 212
5 Sebastian Vettel 194
6 Pierre Gasly 69
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. 66
8 Alexander Albon 52
9 Lando Norris 35
10 Daniel Ricciardo 34
11 Nico Hulkenberg 34
12 Daniil Kvyat 33
13 Sergio Perez 33
14 Kimi Raikkonen 31
15 Kevin Magnussen 20
16 Lance Stroll 19
17 Romain Grosjean 8
18 Antonio Giovinazzi 4
19 Robert Kubica 1
20 George Russell 0

Constructors’ championship

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 571
2 Ferrari 409
3 Red Bull/Honda 311
4 McLaren/Renault 101
5 Renault 68
6 Toro Rosso/Honda 55
7 Racing Point/Mercedes 52
8 Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 35
9 Haas/Ferrari 28
10 Williams/Mercedes 1

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