Built around the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Sochi Autodrom ensures an impressive backdrop for Grand Prix racing.
And 2018’s fifth edition saw an equally significant result – with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas helping teammate Lewis Hamilton take a big step towards a fifth F1 World Championship, care of a third win in Russia.
At lights out, polesitter Bottas got the clean start he needed, but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel rocketed away from third to drag Hamilton down to Turn 2, but couldn’t get past. Kimi Räikkönen slotted into fourth.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen had the best getaway of all, moving up from 19th on the grid to close out the end of Lap 1 in 13th.
On the following tour, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc whet 2019 appetites with a stunning move on Haas’ Kevin Magnussen at Turn 3 for fifth place.
Up front, the two Silver Arrows began to trade fastest laps; while both Toro Rossos retired on Lap 6 with brake issues. Verstappen was up to sixth.
On Lap 12, Bottas pitted from the lead, switching onto the softs; releasing Hamilton and Vettel, exiting in fifth behind Verstappen.
The following lap, Vettel made the right move and pitted for softs to get ahead of Hamilton, who stopped on lap 14. But two laps later, the Brit re-took the place with a breathtaking move into Turn 4 after Vettel defended hard as the pair braked for Turn 2.
On Lap 19, Räikkönen pitted from the lead, releasing Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel – rejoining fifth, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
On Lap 25, Bottas was ordered to let Hamilton past at Turn 13 effectively for the lead, with Verstappen on the softs and still yet to stop.
Lap 42, and Hamilton tried to make a move on Verstappen for the lead, but the Dutchman closed the door into Turn 2 before pitting two laps later.
That left the Silver Arrows to build a gap over Vettel, for the team’s third one-two result this year – and arguably, for Hamilton, its most important.