10 pics that told the story of the Russian GP
© Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool
Mercedes ruled the roost in Russia, but it was a podium of sad faces – these are the 10 photos that summed up Sunday’s Sochi race.
Any winners here?
A 1-2 for Mercedes in qualifying was repeated in the race, but the team’s decision to order pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas aside to allow Lewis Hamilton to increase his championship lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with his eighth win of the season saw few smiles at the Silver Arrows afterwards.
Start part of the set-up
Before Sunday’s race, all the talk was whether Mercedes would orchestrate Hamilton past Bottas on the lengthy run to Turn 2 to use the Finn as a barrier back to Vettel. But Bottas nailed his start while Hamilton stuttered, setting the scene for the team orders decision that came on lap 25, when Bottas reluctantly handed a victory to his teammate.
He said it, part 1
Hamilton on his 70th win, which he immediately called his least favourite. “Honestly, it's the strangest day I can remember,” he said. “We have crossed this situation and discussion before. I would never wish it upon anyone else and would never ask for it, ever. It’s really important right this second to first acknowledge Valtteri, because he was just the ultimate gentleman. It is very weird to feel down.”
He said it, part 2
Bottas is as low-maintenance as an F1 driver gets, but losing a win when he'd driven perfectly from qualifying onwards was tough to take. "We got a good result for us as a team with maximum points, but for me personally it was a difficult race," he said. "I already understand the situation. I know that today I was supposed to win and I could've won the race on equal terms. I know myself I am the winner of this weekend."
Seb sees the sense
Arguably the clearest head of the podium finishers belonged to Vettel, who was leading the championship by eight points before he crashed out of the lead at his home race in Germany, sparking a Hamilton run of five wins in six races that sees the Ferrari driver 50 points adrift with just five races left. "They played together as a team very well," he said of Mercedes. "I think in the position they are it's a no-brainer what they did today."
Max takes the cake
It was Max Verstappen's 21st birthday on race day, but he gifted the spectators a spectacular showing. Starting from 19th after a raft of engine, gearbox and yellow flag penalties, the Dutchman passed six cars on lap one, was fifth by lap eight, and even led for 24 laps before pitting, finishing fifth and a country mile ahead of Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo. "I enjoyed myself out there," he grinned.
Damaged Daniel nowhere
Picking your way through slower cars from the back after taking penalties can be a hit or miss affair; while Verstappen managed it perfectly, Ricciardo's similar charge was compromised almost before it started when he inadvertently hit a piece of debris from Stoffel Vandoorne's McLaren on the first lap and damaged his front wing. With sixth his best likely finishing position and Sochi's lengthy pit lane making a two-stop strategy a literal and figurative waste of time, the Australian stayed on track and didn't box until there were 14 laps left. "The first lap was a bit of a mess," he said.
Young star continues to rise
An under-the-radar star in Russia was Sauber's Charles Leclerc, who qualified a brilliant seventh on Saturday and retained that place on race day despite much faster cars being out of position behind him on the grid. Even his rivals were impressed. "(Leclerc) came from nowhere and beat us massively," said Racing Point Force India's Sergio Perez, who was 10th. "They have done an incredible job. I just saw him on the first lap and then he disappeared."
The 'other' team orders controversy
Speaking of Perez, he and Force India teammate Esteban Ocon were on their best behaviour after clashing in the last race in Singapore, and getting read the riot act from the team's management as a result. There was plenty of radio chat as both drivers wanted – and were allowed – a crack at passing the Haas of Kevin Magnussen for eighth, and when Perez couldn't do it, he handed ninth place back to his teammate as instructed. Afterwards, Ocon was sceptical of a team orders directive that received a lot less publicity than Mercedes'. "We tried to swap to see if someone could get the car in front, but we probably have to review this because I don't think it worked," he said.
Torrid race for Toro Rosso
You wouldn’t want brake failure in an F1 car at any time, but around Sochi's unforgiving wall-lined layout, no brakes are nobody's idea of fun. Toro Rosso duo Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were only two retirements in Russia, both cars spinning after suffering from overheating front brakes and a brake pedal that went flat to the floor when engaged.