Lewis Hamilton took another large step towards securing his fifth Formula 1 world championship in Sochi as he secured a third consecutive win, but he did so thanks to some help from team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
The Mercedes move opened a debate about team orders, but the Silver Arrows won’t mind as they moved ever closer towards their goal, while Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel continued to flounder.
FOX Sports Asia delves into the crucial issues from the Sochi Autodrom.
A bitter pill for Bottas
On paper the 2018 Russian Grand Prix will go down as a big win for Mercedes as a 1-2 finish moved them closer to both the drivers and constructors championship, but in reality it was a result that will leave a bad taste in the mouth for many after Valtteri Bottas was unceremoniously told to make way for teammate Lewis Hamilton as the Brit attempts to sew up the title.
Despite Hamilton’s humility during post-match interviews and the praise the Finn received from Toto Wolff and the rest of the Mercedes team Bottas will be feeling no better.
Although team tactics are, and have always been, an integral part of racing, it still doesn’t make it easier for race fans or the driver involved to accept having to give up their hopes of a victory in favour of someone deemed to be more important.
It’s probably all the more difficult when you are in a position similar to Bottas with only three career wins to your name.
Vettel under pressure
Russia was not a good weekend for Sebastian Vettel. After Mercedes teamed up to hand his rival the win he now sits 50 points behind Hamilton with just five races remaining – which effectively means the title race is now out of his hands.
Despite lagging behind Mercedes for most of the weekend Vettel still had an opportunity mid-race when Hamilton emerged behind the German following his spit stop. However, it didn’t take the Mercedes man long to prove his superiority once again as he passed Vettel’s Ferrari with relative ease on his way to another important victory.
With the championship running away from him for the second consecutive season, Vettel could be forgiven for beginning to worry about his long-term future. From the king of Formula 1 following his four consecutive championship wins at the turn of the decade, he now faces the real danger of losing his status as Ferrari’s main man. The arrival of Charles Leclerc at Maranello next season, how the rookie performs, and indeed how Vettel reacts will be crucial factors.
Birthday boy Max Verstappen certainly enjoyed his big day in Sochi on Sunday with a superb drive, slicing through the field as he made his way from 19th to 5th. What was even more impressive is that he did so on soft compound tyres, racing past 14 cars in just eight laps, and leading the race for 23 laps after the leaders pitted early.
Things could have been even better for the Red Bull man, but he was forced to back off later on in the race after his mandatory pit stop to protect his tyres.
Verstappen’s drive and that of Daniel Ricciardo, who climbed from 18th to finish in sixth, show that Red Bull had a car that could compete in Russian. They must be rueing the fact that more engine-related penalties meant that they were unable to take advantage of that.
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