Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix 2019

Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix 2019

Normal service has been resumed with Mercedes claiming another 1-2 finish, Lewis Hamilton obviously winning the race, Valtteri Bottas is the clear #2, Hamilton’s wingman, as proven in the last race in Singapore, being told to slow down, so Hamilton would come out of the pits ahead of him. While Ferrari made a strategic error with an additional pitstop for soft tires putting Leclerc behind Bottas on the restart.

So, the start, Charles Leclerc got a decent start, as did Sebastian Vettel, who got alongside and passed Hamilton for 2nd through the turn 1 kink, then got alongside teammate Leclerc to pass for the lead into turn 2, such is the power of the tow in the run down to turn 2. Carlos Sainz got a great start as well, getting alongside Hamilton in the run down to turn 2, eventually slotting into 4th splitting the Mercedes.

We didn’t even get a full lap in before the safety car was deployed. It was a case of 3 into 1 didn’t go at turn 4, Antonio Giovinazzi was the meat in a HAAS/Renault sandwich, which resulted in Grosjean being immediately out of the race with broken suspension, Ricciardo trundling back to the pits after suffering a puncture, later retiring on lap 26 due to damage sustained in the incident, while the meat, Giovinazzi got off relatively lightly, a damaged front wing, and going on to finish the race, albeit outside of the points.

Then came the political drama at Ferrari, where the team had planned to swap their drivers around a few laps into the race. The pre-race plan was for Leclerc to give Vettel the tow through turn 1 towards turn 2 to get him clear of Hamilton in second, I don’t think the plan was for Vettel to take the lead, I guess Ferrari underestimated the power of the tow in the run down to turn 2. Vettel had pulled significantly ahead of Leclerc, so when the call came to let Leclerc by, Vettel responded with “I can’t, he’s too far behind”.

In fairness to Vettel, he was the faster driver, setting a sequence of four fastest laps, extending his lead over his teammate. As Vettel was clearly unwilling to yield the position to his younger teammate, Ferrari hung Vettel out to dry, keeping the German out for an additional five laps more than Leclerc, giving the Monegasque driver the undercut on Vettel. It got worse for Vettel with an MGU-K failure, forcing the German to stop at turn 16, which caused a virtual safety car, which Mercedes used to good advantage, to get Hamilton into the race lead, due to the speed differential of cars on the track and the pit lane.

As the VSC was ending; George Russell had a brake failure, going straight at turn 8, which forced a full safety car to recover his stricken Williams. During this safety car period, Ferrari pitted Leclerc for a second stop for a set of used soft tires, which dropped him back to 3rd place, now behind Bottas. And that was the end of the race for the podium. Leclerc got close to Bottas a few times, but even with DRS activated, could not pass the Finnish driver. I think you’d have to call this a bad strategic call from Ferrari.

Red Bull, who started 9th with Max Verstappen, and from the pit lane with Alex Albon, after a heavy crash in qualifying, made their way through the field with Verstappen finishing 4th, thanks to Vettel’s retirement, and Albon finishing in a solid 5th place, equalling his best result. A great result for the Thai driver after starting from the pit lane, albeit being aided by a number of retirements throughout the field.

Another solid result for McLaren, finishing 6th and 8th after the +5 second time penalty was applied to Kevin Magnussen. McLaren was the highest placed Renault powered car on a weekend where it was announced that McLaren will be returning to Mercedes power in 2021. Which of course means nothing, Honda got a lot of the blame for McLaren’s lackluster performance, when it was as much McLaren’s chassis design that made them slow. Williams has the Mercedes PU, yet, they are nowhere this season.

The net result is that Hamilton has a 107 point lead over third-placed Leclerc in the world drivers title race, yes, the gap to Bottas is smaller, 73 points, but we know, after Singapore, that Bottas is Hamilton’s bitch, so we can discount the gap to Bottas. With just five races remaining, and Hamilton having a full four-race points gap, the Briton would have to retire several times to lose the world drivers title.

Russian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:33:38.992
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +3.829s
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +5.212s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +14.210s
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +38.348s
6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +45.889s
7. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +48.728s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +57.749s
9. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +58.779s
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +59.841s

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