Russian Grand Prix 2018
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both unhappy with what happened at Sochi, but for Mercedes, winning is all that matters.
Bottas started from pole position and was on pace to win the Russian Grand Prix 2018; however, the Finn driver ended up taking the runners-up spot after the team ordered him to let Hamilton pass as they aim to extend the Briton’s championship lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
While that decision may be controversial, using team tactics isn’t new to Formula One. And although fans see it as unsportsmanlike, Mercedes’ move put them one step closer to winning both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship.
Highlights of the game
The Mercedes drivers started in front of the pack, with Bottas looking to defend the Sochi title that he won last year in a bizarre turn of events. But his lead didn’t last long as he had to give way to Hamilton midway through the race after Vettel threatened to surpass the Brit driver in the earlier exchanges.
The Silver Arrows feared that Vettel would take advantage of the slipstream heading into the first corner to get the lead—the same way Bottas won the event last year—so Bottas and Hamilton teamed up to fend off the German ace and secure the top places after the first lap.
Nonetheless, another pit stop error caused Hamilton a place and ruined Mercedes’ strategy for a comfortable one-two victory.
Bottas pitted first and changed his tyres on Lap 12. After that, Ferrari decided to pit Vettel on the following lap—the moment that Mercedes should have pitted Hamilton as well. Instead of calling their lead driver into the pits, however, the team waited for a lap.
Hamilton was dropping in pace by Lap 14, and so when he changed his tyres, he came out behind Vettel who was just picking up his speed.
The 33-year-old Hamilton, now at third and behind his title rival, relentlessly attacked Vettel and succeeded overtaking him on the fourth corner of Lap 16. Nevertheless, with the 31-year-old German threatening, Mercedes had to ensure that they would get the best out of the situation.
Hamilton then took the lead on Lap 25 after Bottas allowed him to overtake due to team orders. The teammates were neck and neck against each other throughout the remainder of the race, with Hamilton leading by less than two seconds over Bottas.
It was pretty comfortable for the Mercedes drivers after the swap though, as Vettel failed to challenge Bottas for second and finished five seconds behind the Finn.
Besides the heated battle up front, the chasing pack also didn’t fail to entertain, thanks to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who celebrated his 21st birthday with a bang.
The Dutchman grabbed the Russian Grand Prix 2018 highlights as he climbed off from 19th all the way to a fifth-place finish—even going in front at one point before pitting.
Verstappen made it to fifth after ten laps and battled for a podium finish, but his pit stop on Lap 43 seemed a little too late as he didn’t have enough chances to challenge Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who ended up fourth.
Hamilton finished 2.5 seconds ahead of his teammate, but he admitted that he isn’t particularly proud of it and added that Bottas deserved to win the contest instead of him.
“Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by. He deserved to win,” said Hamilton who was the pre-race favourite in Russian Grand Prix 2018 betting.
“It’s the strangest day I can remember in the sport. He was an incredible gentleman. The team took the decision. It’s very weird to feel down. It’s definitely the win on my list of wins that I am least proud of.”
For Mercedes, though, they will only see Hamilton’s 50-point championship lead over Vettel—a 10-point boost rather than a three-point gain that Hamilton would have gotten had he finished second.
Moreover, Mercedes extended their lead over the Scudetto in the F1 constructor standings. They now have 495 points, 53 ahead of Ferrari and 203 in front of Red Bull Racing.
It’s three consecutive wins now for Hamilton—having won the recent races in Singapore and Italy—and he will look to make it four straight when the Formula One season heads to the Suzuka Circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton won the Japan battle last year after a mechanical problem kept Vettel out of the race, and the SBOBET motorsport odds are leaning towards another domination from the Englishman given his current form and winning streak.
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