What we learned from the Russian GP

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While Valtteri Bottas might have run away with his first Grand Prix win in Russia, Sochi, there were plenty of takeaways from the Russian Grand Prix 2017.

With the Championship race now back on track, here’s a look at what all we learned from an exciting, close race that took place on Sunday.

IT WENT BADLY WRONG FOR HAMILTON

Lewis Hamilton was at a complete loss to explain why he was so far off the pace in Russia. He finished a yawning 36 seconds behind Bottas and 25 seconds adrift off third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.

The writing however, had been on the wall. Hamilton was nowhere in practice and then qualified nearly six tenths of a second behind pole-sitter Vettel and more than half-a-second adrift of Bottas.

Hamilton was slow in Singapore and at the Japanese Grand Prix last year, too, but even then, the deficit of defeat to Nico Rosberg was not as big as in Sochi.

UNWANTED PROBLEM FOR MERCEDES

For all of Hamilton’s problems, his poor show must take nothing away from Bottas who registered the first victory of his career at attempt number 81.

Bottas was expected to play second fiddle to Hamilton, but he has now out-qualified him for two successive races and moved to within 10 points of his team-mate in the title battle.

This provides Mercedes with a mighty problem in that they cannot justify team orders if Bottas is doing the business. Yet it will be music to Vettel’s ears as his path to the title will be all that more simpler if Bottas and Hamilton continue to take points off each other.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH FOR BOULLIER

A furious Eric Boullier insisted that it is not acceptable for a team of McLaren’s might to see another of their cars absent from the start of the race.

First it was Stoffel Vandoorne in Bahrain, and then Fernando Alonso in Russia after his desperately poor Honda engine conked out on the way to the grid.

Alonso has failed to finish any of the opening four races, and the sight of him walking back to the McLaren garage was depressing, not just for the Spaniard and his McLaren team – but for the sport, too.

F1 is being deprived of watching one of its finest talents in action in what should be his pomp.

IT’S RADIO GAGA FOR RAIKKONEN

Kimi Raikkonen’s radio transmissions have become a thing of F1 folklore and the Finn provided much hilarity again on Sunday.

After Raikkonen rejoined the circuit following his one and only pit stop, he was informed by his Ferrari team that he was nine seconds adrift of Bottas – the man who he had been trailing for the entire race. This however, was news to Raikkonen.

“What do you mean we are behind Bottas?” He then added: “How did we end up behind him? Why did we not stop earlier?” Delivered in deadpan style, his engineer replied: “He was leading the race, Kimi.”

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F1 round-up: Bottas claims Russian GP for his first ever win

Sport360 staff 30/04/2017

Valtteri Bottas held his nerve to claim the first victory of his Formula One career as a frustrated Lewis Hamilton finished only fourth at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Bottas led virtually every lap at the Sochi Autodrom after passing pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel at the start before holding off a late charge from the Ferrari driver in the closing stages.

Vettel crossed the line less than one second behind Bottas to extend his lead over Hamilton to 13 points.

Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium places while Hamilton, who has been mysteriously off colour all weekend, ended up a mammoth 36 seconds behind his team-mate.

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Valtteri Bottas put in an inspiring performance to win his maiden F1 race after 82 attempts.

Starting from P3, the Finn overtook the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen on the first corner to sail into an early lead that never looked under threat until 10 laps from the end.

With Vettel breathing down his neck, Bottas stayed composed to seal a win for Mercedes.

FASTEST LAP

Kimi Raikkonen had a majestic weekend in Sochi, finishing on the podium for the first time since last year’s Austrian Grand Prix before clocking the fastest lap of 1:36.844 on lap 49.

Vettel’s 1:37.312 on lap 49 proved the second-fastest, with Bottas’ 1:37.367 on 49 coming in third as he tried to push away from the chasing German.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth, struggling with intermittent power and over-heating problems that prevented him from challenging the Ferraris for a place on the podium.

The Briton is now 13 points off Vettel in the championship, with Bottas only 10 points behind the four-time world champion.

Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton.

ONE TO WATCH

It’s only the first time he’s finished a race – crashing out in three other GPs – but Lance Stroll produced a solid display to finish 11th.

The rookie Williams driver had a few blips when he spun exiting turn four on lap 4, and also earned a 5sec time penalty but he redeemed himself to finish just outside the points.

Lance Stroll.

Lance Stroll.

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IN PICS: Vettel secures pole at Russian GP

Sport360 staff 29/04/2017
Ferrari on pole.

Lewis Hamilton will have it all to do to win Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix as he qualified only fourth while title rival Sebastian Vettel secured his first pole position in nearly two years.

Championship leader Vettel, who heads Hamilton by seven points in the title race, ended Mercedes’ streak of 18 consecutive poles with a brilliant final lap following a nail-biting session here at the Sochi Autodrom.

Vettel heads an all- Ferrari front row with Kimi Raikkonen second on the grid and Valtteri Bottas third. Hamilton, mysteriously off-colour for much of the weekend here, was more than half a second behind Vettel, who celebrated his pole in raucous fashion over the team radio.

The last time Vettel started from pole was at the Singapore Grand Prix back in 2015, but his and Ferrari’s pace in Russia so far this weekend would appear to point towards a changing of the guard, with Hamilton’s Mercedes team having dominated the sport for the past three seasons.

Indeed Mercedes have a great record in these parts having won all of the three grands prix staged here while leading every lap. But they, and in particular Hamilton, have struggled for form, with Ferrari now only cementing their status as real challengers for both the drivers’ and constructors’ crown.

Hamilton was nearly six tenths of a second behind Vettel, and almost half-a-second down on Bottas. His sluggish pace was greeted by crossed arms from Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda in the Mercedes garage, with the latter puffing out his cheeks and shaking his head.
For Vettel he was jubilant to seal his 47th career pole.

“It is a very good result and I am sure everyone is happy and very proud,” he said.

“The car was phenomenal this afternoon and it was a real pleasure to take the car around on low fuel and drive it to the limit.”

British driver Jolyon Palmer is in desperate need of a strong weekend after a troubled start to the new season, but he had another day to forget here.

Palmer’s Renault mechanics worked through the night to replace his chassis after an exhaust issue was detected in practice on Friday. He then completed just four laps this morning following an engine failure, before he crashed out of qualifying to complete a torrid 24 hours.

The 26-year-old from Horsham, bidding to haul his car into Q2, ran over the kerbs on the entry to turn four before he lost control of his car and thudded the tyre barrier on the opposing side of the circuit.

Palmer walked away from the incident and is set to start 16th, but his Renault team face yet another repair job following the damage sustained to the front of his car.

And to make matters worse for Palmer his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, new to Renault this year, qualified an impressive eighth.

Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo will line up in fifth for Red Bull, with Williams driver Felipe Massa sixth. Fernando Alonso, yet to make it to the end of a race this season, is only a lowly 15th, while his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne is two spots further back on the grid.

Bernie Ecclestone, integral in bringing Formula One to Russia, was back in the paddock for the second race in succession in his so-called role as chairman emeritus. The 86-year-old, here with his wife Fabiana, watched qualifying with Russian dignitaries. Ecclestone wore a white jacket with the Russian flag on one arm and his name embroided on the other.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be a guest of honour for Sunday’s race.

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