Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has put one hand on a fifth world championship trophy, winning the Russian Grand Prix for a third time, his 70th overall - extending his lead over title rival Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to a comfortable 50 points with five races remaining.
Hamilton, who started from second on the grid, kept calm under pressure - fending off a challenge from Vettel into Turn 2 on Lap 1; passing the German in a stunning move into Turn 4 on lap 16 one lap after his pit stop when Vettel got past, and used team orders to get past his teammate Valtteri Bottas for the lead on lap 25.
And while he was happy to increase his points lead on Vettel, equal to two race victories, Hamilton paid his respects to teammate Bottas for playing the team game.
“It’s actually quite a difficult day, because Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by. Obviously, he’s now not fighting for the championship as where we are,” Hamilton said.
“It’s been such a great weekend for the team. The team does such an exceptional job to have this advantage on Ferrari, and have a one-two. Usually, I’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, we’re trying - as a team - to win both championships and I think today it was a real team effort.”
Bottas and Vettel completed the podium, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fourth and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finishing fifth - the Dutchman charging from 19th on the grid on his 21st birthday.
The sport now heads straight from Sochi in Russia to Nagoya, Japan, for the 30th Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit - with the next round run back-to-back on October 7th.
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Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
F1 is preparing for the fifth Russian Grand Prix, held in Sochi around the precinct used for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. And for Mercedes, it’s a chance to put the world championship further out of reach. Hamilton is now 40 points ahead of title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel - a win would extend that to at least 47, meaning Hamilton can finish second in all remaining races and still win.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas is on pole position for the first time in Russia, his second for the season and sixth overall. But we’re not expecting the Finn to stay out front for long, given the title battle. Hamilton starts second, completing the 90th front row lockout for Mercedes power in Formula 1. Behind the Silver Arrows, two Ferraris - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen starts fifth, just days after being confirmed to stay with the American team into 2019. Sauber’s Charles Leclerc starts seventh, the best start for Sauber this year - and since Nico Hulkenberg at the 2013 US Grand Prix.
And while there’s set to be a furious fight (for the title) at the front, it’s expected there will be more fighting through the field. Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Brendon Hartley, Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly were all required to start from back of grid for use of additional power unit elements. Verstappen and Ricciardo drop an additional 5 grid places for unscheduled gearbox changes, while the Dutchman dropped a further 3 places for a yellow flag infringement in qualifying. That means the back of the grid features Alonso (P16), Gasly (P17), Ricciardo (P18), Verstappen (P19) and Hartley (P20).
Rain has fallen in the lead-up to the race, but we’re not expecting a wet start - when the grid would be forced to run full wets. That means a greasy track will make things very unpredictable into Turn 2. There could be further issues getting off the Sochi grid, with the track partially resurfaced across the first three grid slots. It’s going to be a one-stop race, with those on the ultrasofts going to lap 15 - and then onto the softs to the end. For those on the hypersofts, it’s likely a much earlier stop (lap 10) before going onto the softs.
Both Mercedes and Ferraris start on the ultrasofts, the remainder of the top-10 on hypersofts. Both Renaults start on the softs, along with Gasly, Ricciardo and Verstappen. Sirotkin, Stroll, Vandoorne and Alonso are on the ultras, while Hartley on the back is on the hypersofts.
Polesitter Bottas gets a good start, he leads, with Vettel ttrying to take Hamilton into Turn 2 - but he can’t. So it’s Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen as per the grid. Hamilton lagging behind Bottas at this stage. Verstappen is up to P13. Ocon and Leclerc battling for P6, with the Monegasque in front.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.3 seconds, then it’s Vettel - 1.1 seconds behind. Leclerc takes Magnussen for P5 along Turn 4. Magnussen now under pressure from Ocon, and Perez. Verstappen passes Sainz for P11 into Turn 13.
DRS enabled. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:40.109. He’s 1.2 secs clear of Hamilton. Vettel is the same margin behind. Raikkonen is 2-secs adrift in P4. Verstappen takes Ericsson for P10 into Turn 4. He’s charging through the field, while Ricciardo is P15. Verrstappen has passed Grosjean into Turn 13 for P9.
Another fastest lap for race leader Bottas, 1:39.849. He’s 1.4 secs up on Hamilton. Verstappen battling with Perez, and gets past for P8. Ocon ahead is the next target.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:39.770. Gasly spins off at Turn 4, Hartley at Turn 2, and both rejoins. Bottas leads by 1.5 seconds. Verstappen within half a second of Ocon. The Dutchman is on a charge. Verstappen passes Ocon for P7 into turn 13.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.3 seconds. The pair the only ones in the 1:39s. Both Toro Rossos have retired. Verstappen chasing down the Haas of Magnussen for P6, 0.4 sec the gap. Alonso pits for the softs. Verstappen passes Magnussen down the back straight and he’s up to P6.
Bottas sets another fastest lap, a 1:39.517. He’s 1.4 secs up on his teammate. Both Mercedes the only ones in the 1:39s. Vettel is in P3, 2.2 secs behind - Raikkonen a further 2.3 secs adrift. Leclerc in P5 is 12.2 seconds adrift. The top-five covered by 18.7 seconds.
Verstappen is chasing down Leclerc, 0.5 seconds adrift. The Dutch superstar pushing to crack into the Turn 5, he takes the Monegasque into Turn 2. His teammate Ricciardo is in P12. Stroll pits. Ocon in P8 is chasing down Magnussen, 0.9 seconds the gap. Hulkenberg in P13 is 0.3 seconds behind Grosjean.
Ricciardo passes Grosjean for P11. Hamilton is less than a second behind Bottas, within DRS range - are we going to see the pass sometime soon for the lead? Magnussen blocks Ocon into turn 2, defending for P7. Ricciardo has passed Ericsson for P10, and into the points.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 0.7 seconds, as Magnussen pits. Ericsson in P11 is chasing down Hulkenberg for the final points paying position.
Bottas remains in the lead, 1.1 seconds the gap. Vettel is 1.9 secs behind his title rival. Leclerc and Ocon pit. Verstappen is in P5, 13.6 seconds behind Raikkonen. Sirotkin pits.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.2 seconds - and staying in touch. No drivers within 1-second of another at the moment. Ericsson pits.
Bottas pits from the lead. Hamilton goes through, as does Vettel. Bottas onto the softs, 2.9 second stop. He comes out in P5, behind Verstappen. Hamilton will put the hammer down now, as he sets the fastest first sector.
Vettel pits from second place. He’s onto the softs. 2.8 second stop. He exits behind Bottas in P5. Hamilton told to “keep up what you’re doing”. Is the Brit going to get held up by traffic? Mercedes is in the pit lane.
Hamilton pits from the lead, as Vettel does a fastest middle sector. He’s onto the softs. Hamilton goes wheel to wheel with Vettel and the German gets through and ahead into P4. Verstappen in P2 has just done the fastest lap, a 1:39.507. Vettel locks up into Turn 13, under pressure from Hamilton.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:39.353 - but Hamilton almost touches trying to pass the German into Turn 2. He takes Vettel for P4 into Turn 4. What incredible racing! Raikkonen leads Verstappen, but both are yet to stop.
So it’s Raikkonen, Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.
Bottas and then Hamilton set the fastest lap, a 1:38.644. The Silver Arrows the only ones in the 1:38s. All drivers are now on the softs, except for Raikkonen. Vettel under investigation for making two moves under braking, when defending against Hamilton.
Raikkonen pits, releasing Verstappen into the lead. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:38.535. Hamilton is 1.6 seconds adrift of his teammate. Raikkonen exits ahead of Ricciardo in P5. Ocon in P10 is chasing down Magnussen, 0.6 sec the gap.
Perez says he needs to push, can I overtake Ocon? Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:38.429. He’s 2-seconds behind Hamilton. Perez told to push, as they’re racing Hulkenberg (P7). So Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel all doing 1:38s. Perez complaining about having to stay behind Ocon.
Raikkonen does the fastest lap, a 1:38.039. Verstappen leads Bottas by 2.3 seconds, the Dutchman yet to pit. Then it’s Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Magnussen and Ocon for the top-10. Ocon told he has 3-laps to get past Magnussen or Hulkenberg will be able to get past at the stops.
Hamilton is gaining on Bottas, 1.1 sec the gap - and decreasing. It looks like a swap is imminent.
Hamilton in P3 is setting up his move on Bottas, ultimately for the lead - with Verstappen yet to stop. Raikkonen sets the fastest lap, a 1:38.025. Hamilton just outside of DRS range now. Grosjean passes Sainz for P12 but forces him off the track - gives the place back.
So Verstappen leads Bottas by 1.5 seconds, then it’s Hamilton 1.4 secs adrift then Vettel and Raikkonen. Ricciardo is in P6.
We see Toto Wolff pushing the tactic button on the pit lane perch. Gasly says he retired with brake issues. Hamilton passes Bottas for P2 into turn 13, the Finn letting him past. So the swap has been made. Now can the Finn keep Vettel behind him?
Verstappen leads Hamilton and Bottas, with the Dutchman yet to stop. Replay radio, we hear Bottas told to let Hamilton by into Turn 13. Vettel within DRS range. Perez passes Ocon for P10 into Turn 2, so more team orders there.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 2.9 seconds. Bottas is P3, with Vettel just 0.8sec adrift.
Main battle between Bottas and Vettel, with the Finn pulling out a 0.1 sec gap on the German on that last lap. Bottas unhappy about letting Hamilton through, James Vowles explaining it over the radio.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, immediately bettered by Raikkonen with a 1:37.770.
Verstappen going through traffic. He’s 2.6 secs ahead of Hamilton, then it’s Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Magnussen and Perez closing out the top-10.
Entire field is on the soft tyres. Vettel remains in touch with Bottas, 1.2 seconds the gap there - so not yet within DRS range. 13-seconds covered the top-five. Perez in P10 is less than a second behind Magnussen for P9.
Verstappen has done 31 laps on the softs. Surely he’s going to pit soon. Hamilton says he has hesitations on the engine, and a blister on the left rear.
Vettel has responded with the fastest lap, a 1:37.750. He’s 1.6 seconds behind Bottas in P3. The leaders have lapped up to P14, Sainz. Verstappen is still leading the race, and is doing similar laps to the Silver Arrows.
Perez told the position will have to switch back if he can’t pass Magnussen. Both Force Indias running close together. Perez told it can only be 2-more laps, otherwise positions to switch.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 3.1 seconds, the Dutchman having done 34 laps on the softs. Perez given 2-more laps to pass Magnussen.
Raikkonen in P5 sets the fastest lap, a 1:37.555. Verstappen doing similar pace to Bottas and both Ferraris. Red Bull Racing looking to prepare their tyres for the stop. Hulkenberg pits from P8, which will force the switch back for Force India.
Perez given 1-more lap to pass Magnussen. Perez told if he doesn’t get DRS into Turn 2, the switch will happen at end of lap. Ocon passes into Turn 2.
Verstappen leads, while Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:37.395. Bottas is 2-seconds adrift, while Vettel is 2.4 seconds back in P4. Top-five are all doing 1:37s. Ericsson pits.
Another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:37.316. Verstappen told to keep it up out front. Both Red Bulls are yet to stop, so likely to run hypersofts to the end.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:37.116. Ricciardo pits from P6, he goes onto the ultrasofts - and takes a new front wing, with old one missing a flap. So that explains his lap times. He returns in P6.
So Verstappen leads Hamilton by 1.2 seconds, then it’s Bottas and Vettel.
Verstappen still leading Hamilton, but the Brit tries to get past into Turn 1 - and the Dutchman closes the door. Ricciardo sets the fastest lap, a 1:36.345. Verstappen says the tyres are a little bit cold especially through traffic. He’s told to push.
Hamilton has fallen behind Verstappen, he’s 1.6 seconds adrift of the Red Bull racer. Verstappen saying his tyres are fine, let’s stay out.
Verstappen pits from the lead, as Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen go through. He’s onto the ultrasofts, 2.4 second stop. He comes out behind Raikkonen in P5, ahead of his teammate.
So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen for the top-five. Both Silver Arrows setting personal best laps, in the 1:36s. Both Force Indias are ahead of Hulkenberg.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:36.185. He leads Bottas by 2.3 seconds, then it’s Vettel 1.5 seconds adrift in P3. Then it’s Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ricciardo. Only the top-10 are on the lead lap.
3.7-seconds covers the top-three - Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.9 seconds, Vettel just 1.9 seconds adrift in P3. Then it’s Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Magnussen, Ocon, Perez, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Alonso, Stroll, Sainz, Vandoorne and Sirotkin.
Only the top-seven are on the lead lap now. Vettel was 0.6 seconds faster than Bottas on that last lap, the gap now 2.6 seconds. Can the German make up the gap on a late-race charge?
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:36.137. He’s 2.4 seconds up on Bottas, who is 3.1 seconds ahead of Vettel. Traffic costing the German some time.
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:35.861 - a new lap record. Hamilton told the backmarkers ahead are scrapping, so be careful.
Hamilton looks comfortable, a 1.8 second gap to his teammate. Vettel has dropped back in P3, he’s 4-seconds adrift of Bottas. The Finn asked if positions will be swapped back, and is told they won’t be.
Lap 53 - FINAL LAP:
Hamilton takes his 70th Grand Prix win in Russia, extending his lead over title rival to 50 points with five races to go.
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