Lewis Hamilton has won the Russian Grand Prix for the fourth time, his second-straight, retaining Mercedes’ absolute dominance at Sochi - in a dramatic safety car-affected race.
Hamilton, who took his first win since Hungary, his ninth for 2019, dropped to third into Turn 2 following the start, the circuit’s first real corner - behind both Ferraris.
But as Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc squabbled over the radio on which driver had to the right to lead, likely regarding a pre-race agreement - the Brit kept in touch, and when Vettel retired with a mechanical issue, he took the lead from Leclerc on Lap 29 using the Virtual Safety Car for a quicker pit stop.
“It’s just incredible to have this result today, considering how quick they [Ferrari] were off the start. Just keeping up with them was a really incredibly hard to task. But we haven’t given up, we keep on pushing and the car was really fantastic today,” said Hamilton, who is now 73 points ahead of teammate Bottas in the standings, with the bonus point scored for fastest lap.
Valtteri Bottas finished second for a Mercedes one-two result, holding off Leclerc under significant pressure all the way to the flag - the young Monegasque completing the podium.
There’s now two weeks until the sport heads to the land of the rising sun for the Japanese Grand Prix, held at the historic and fearsome Suzuka Circuit on October 11-13.
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Here’s how the 2019 FORMULA 1 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
Lots of excitement ahead of the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, with Charles Leclerc taking his fourth-straight pole position - the first Ferrari driver to do so since Michael Schumacher in 2001. The Monegasque has won two of the last three races, and he again shares the front row with five-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton - who is 96 points ahead of him in the drivers’ standings. It’a a big gap but not impossible if we see a retirement or two.
On the second row, it’s their teammates - Sebastian Vettel, who won last time out in Singapore from P3, then Valtteri Bottas, who needs a strong race with the Finn now 65-points behind Hamilton. The Silver Arrows both starting on the medium tyres, to go longer into the race - but it will likely cost them a better start than those on the red-rimmed soft tyres.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz starts from fifth, for his equal-best career slot - and the top Renault-powered car. The Spaniard ahead of Renault works team racer Nico Hulkenberg, and Sainz’s teammate Lando Norris. Haas’ Romain Grosjean starts in P8, ahead of the former teammates Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
There’s plenty of grid penalties, with Verstappen and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (P16) each penalised five places for use of additional power unit elements. Gasly’s teammate Daniil Kvyat (P20) and Williams’ Robert Kubica (P19) are required to start from back of grid due to multiple power unit element changes. Kvyat also races at stewards' discretion after failing to set a qualifying time, following his power unit change. Red Bull’s Alexander Albon was penalised five places for an unscheduled gearbox change, 15 places for additional power unit elements, and is required to start from pit lane after his floor was replaced (following his Turn 13 crash in qualifying) for a different specification under parc ferme conditions.
In terms of strategy, it’s a dry one-stop race - with around 24 seconds lost in the pit lane for a stop. The majority will start on the soft tyre, and they’re expected to stop between laps 14-22 to go onto the hards to the end. Those starting on the mediums, the Mercedes’ drivers for certain, will stop between laps 16-24 and either switch to the hards to the end - or play their luck with the softs for more grip across the final stint, depending on when the stop happens. Naturally, it can all change with a safety car - with 15 safety car and virtual safety cars deployed from 2014-2018, for an 80 per cent chance.
The majority of the grid starts on the softs, with just Hamilton (P2) and Bottas (P4) on the mediums in the top 13. From 14-20, it’s all mediums, with just Kvyat in P19 on the hards. Albon in the pit lane is on mediums.
Polesitter Leclerc gets a good start, and Vettel gets a better one to take second from Hamilton. Vettel takes Leclerc for the lead into Turn 3. Sainz is fourth after challenging Hamilton down to Turn 2. Safety car deployed. Ricciardo has a puncture, with Giovinazzi involved, and Grosjean is into the wall at Turn 4.
So we’re under the safety car. Kubica pits. Order is Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz, Bottas, Norris, Perez, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Gasly, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Russell, Albon, Kubica, Ricciardo. Replays show Raikkonen had a jump start, and shows Stroll tagged Giovinazzi at Turn 2, before he was sandwiched by Grosjean and Ricciardo into Turn 4.
Kubica pits again. Giovinazzi pits for new nose. We’re still under the safety car, coming in at the end of the lap.
Vettel retains lead, then Leclerc. Sainz in P4 chasing Hamilton. Magnussen passes Hulkenberg for P9 into Turn 2. The McLarens very impressive, two in the top-six. Verstappen in P8 is putting Perez under pressure.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:39.750. He’s 1-second ahead of Leclerc. Hamilton 2-seconds behind the Monegasque in P3. Leclerc doing fastest sectors in one and two, so he’s responding.
Another fastest lap for Vettel, a 1:39.593. He’s 1.2 seconds ahead of Leclerc - who is told Sebastian will let you by on the next lap. Is this a payback for Singapore?
Vettel sets another fastest lap, a 1:39.350. Bottas passes Sainz for P4 into Turn 2. Vettel told to let Charles by, but says he’s not close enough - 1.3 seconds the gap. Leclerc setting purple sectors. Leclerc says you put me behind, I respected everything - but now I’m behind. Vettel told to close the gap.
Vettel leads Leclerc by 1.4 seconds. Verstappen passes Perez for P7 around the outside of Turn 3 and makes it stick into Turn 4.
Vettel sets another fastest lap, a 1:39.221. He’s now 1.6 seconds up on Leclerc. Is the German going back on a pre-race deal? Vettel told head down, you’re doing well. Raikkonen has a drive-through penalty for his jump start, even though he dropped to the back at the start. Turn to Plan C, Vettel is told.
Vettel on a hot streak, a 1:39.016. Leclerc told the places will be swapped later on in the race, there’s too much of a gap. The Monegasque says he completely understands, but points out he did what was asked.
Vettel leads Vettel by 2.4-seconds. Hamilton is in P3, 3.9 seconds adrift. Verstappen in P7 is less than a second behind Norris.
Vettel sets another fastest lap, a 1:38.844. He’s 2.6 seconds ahead of Leclerc. Verstappen passes Norris for P6 into Turn 3, coming from a long way back. Impressive move. Sainz is now 3.6 seconds ahead of the Dutchman.
Vettel streaking away with another fastest lap, a 1:38.820. He’s 3.2 seconds ahead of Leclerc. Hamilton is 3.4 seconds adrift in P3, but is responding now with purple sectors. Hulkenberg in P9 is chasing down Perez. Less than a second the gap.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:38.543. Verstappen in P6 chasing down Sainz, six laps the expected time needed to catch the Spaniard.
There’s no end to the fastest laps for Vettel, who sets another one - a 1:38.534. And it’s immediately bettered by Hamilton, a 1:38.533. Hulkenberg passes Perez for P8 into Turn 13.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:38.319. He was two tenths faster than the two Ferraris ahead. The top-four are the only ones into the 1:38s - Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton, Bottas. As we get into the pit window for mediums, so who will move first?
Vettel sets another fastest lap, a 1:38.245 - he’s 3.9 seconds ahead of Leclerc, who has been told to push. Hulkenberg pits from P9, issue with the jacks - but onto the medium tyres. 7.2 second stop, so very slow. He exits in P17.
Hamilton told degradation low, so target pit lap plus 15 - so going long to fit softs at the end. Hamilton says he’s gettiing deg. Verstappen passes Sainz into Turn 3.
Albon passes Kvyat at exit of Turn 13 for P12. Up front Vettel leads Leclerc by 4-seconds. Albon racing Gasly for P11.
Albon says he has brake issues, “I’m smashing the pedal”. Hamilton says he’s still pushing, 2.8 seconds behind Leclerc.
Vettel leads Leclerc by 4.3 seconds. Norris pits from P8. He’s onto the mediums, 2.2 second stop and exits in P13.
Vettel about to lap traffic, Williams’ Robert Kubica - lets him through. Sainz pits, he’s onto the mediums - 3.6 second stop. he’s back in P13. Ferrari in the pit lane.
Leclerc pits from second place. He’s onto the mediums, 2.5 second stop - he exits in P4. So it’s now Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc and Verstappen. Hamilton told to keep his head down, extending stint.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 6.4 seconds. And he’s now starting to feel the tyres getting away from him. Perez pits. Albon passes Gasly for P8, after a long battle through Turn 3-4.
Leclerc sets the fastest lap, a 1:37.705 - 1 second faster than Vettel on that last lap.
Vettel who leads - down in the 1:39s. Ricciardo retires. Leclerc sets the fastest lap, a 1:37.354.
Vettel pits from the lead, locks up before the line. It’s a 3-second stop, medium tyres. And he drops back behind Leclerc, who has set the fastest lap, a 1:37.321. So the order is Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Vettel, Verstappen.
Vettel retires from this race between turn 16 and 17. Virtual Safety Car deployed. So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc. This has fallen into Hamilton’s hands, who has a 27-second advantage over Leclerc in third. And a cheap pit stop.
Hamilton pits from the lead, as does Bottas behind - but not a double stack. 2,6 second stop for Hamilton. So Hamilton takes the lead, but Bottas drops back behind Leclerc. As VSC ends. So order is Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas and Verstappen. Williams’ George Russell into the barrier, has lost the brakes into Turn 8. Safety car now deployed.
Safety car remains out. Order is Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas, Vestappen, Albon, Sainz, Magnussen, Norris, Perez, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Kvyat, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Kubica. Replays show Vettel says “Bring back the V12s”. His first retirement since Germany 2018. 143rd time that Lewis Hamilton has led a Grand Prix.
We’re still under the safety car. Leclerc pits from second, he’s now onto the softs. 2.5 seconds stop, drops back behind Bottas in P3. Kubica has retired, potential similar issue to Russell on brakes. Order is Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz. “So Ferrari is behind us?” Hamilton asks, surprised.
Safety car remains out, but will come in at the end of this lap.
Hamilton retains leads Bottas, Leclerc on the back of the Finn - who didn’t stay close enough to Hamilton on the last lap. Albon is in P8 chasing down Norris, having made up places at safety car restart.
Leclerc is all over the back of Bottas, less than a second the gap. Hamilton up front leads by 1.4 seconds. DRS Enabled. Gasly gets ahead of Kvyat, the pair in very close quarters.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 2-seconds, Leclerc less than a second behind.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:37.150. Bottas stays ahead of the Ferrari of Leclerc into turn 3. This battle for second is heating up!
Another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:37.118. He’s 2.2 seconds up on Bottas. Kvyat goes wide at Turn 3, in trying to keep Gasly behind - but manages to let Raikkonen through.
Hamilton’s hot streak continues with another fastest lap, a 1:36.639. He’s 3-seconds ahead of Bottas. Leclerc in P3 is getting in DRS range.
Albon in P7 is chasing down Magnussen ahead, only 1.7 seconds between the pair. Hamilton asking gap to Bottas and Leclerc, the Brit wanting this win so badly.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 3.2 seconds. Hamilton told to go to strat 7 with Bottas under pressure from Leclerc.
Albon wheel to wheel with Magnussen for P6. Perez has passed Norris for P8.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 4.3-seconds. Albon passes Magnussen for P6 into Turn 13, where he crashed yesterday.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:36.467. He’s 4.1 seconds up on Bottas, who is 1.2 seconds up on Leclerc. Hulkenberg told he can beat Norris for P9, “You can do this,” his engineer says.
Perez passes Magnussen for P7, as the Dane goes wide at Turn 2.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 4.2 seconds. Norris in P9 told Magnussen ahead is struggling, his engineers says “let’s go get him!”
Top-three is within 6-seconds of each other. Magnussen given a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track at Turn 2, which will drop him out of the points.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:36.312. Albon in P6 is chasing down Sainz for P5.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.1 seconds - and looks very comfortable. The Brit cruising home. Hamilton told Verstappen has a free stop in terms of the gap, so may go for fastest lap. Albon passed Sainz for P5, and his now 24-seconds behind his teammate.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 4.7 seconds, then Leclerc, Verstappen, Albon.
Bottas does a personal best lap, six tenths up on Hamilton.
Another PB for Bottas, he’s 4.2 seconds behind Hamilton. Can we cool down for fastest lap, asks Leclerc.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:35.761 - a new lap record.
Lap 53 - FINAL LAP:
Lewis Hamilton wins the Russian Grand Prix for the fourth time. And has the bonus point for fastest lap.
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