Lewis Hamilton increased his lead in this year’s drivers’ world championship to 50 points when he claimed an accomplished victory, aided by Mercedes team tactics, in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The defending four-time champion, who started second on the grid, was helped again by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who allowed him to overtake and then defended him from attack by title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, as he battled to finish second.
Hamilton now has the equivalent of two victories in his pocket with just five rounds remaining and 125 points left to play for.
Here, we look at the key takeaways from Sochi.
The Briton produced a consistent display to take his fifth win in six races, all but ensuring a fifth world title.
He stayed composed and drove solidly around Sochi and benefited from team orders to allow him to overtake leader Bottas on lap 25 and go on to secure victory.
Hamilton now has a seventh win this season – and the result in Russia only strengthens his grip on the world championship.
The team strategy may not have been spot on for his pit spot on lap 14, but Hamilton’s aggression to overtake Vettel two laps later furthered proved his class over his German rival.
DREAM OVER FOR VETTEL
The race was always going to be a war of strategy. It would come down to which team could employ the best one-stop strategy around the fast track in south Russia.
And for all the criticism of late, Ferrari actually got their strategy calls right, with Vettel getting out ahead of Hamilton after the Mercedes pit-stop on lap 14. However, Hamilton passed him two laps later and regained his place.
Vettel did up his game to try and challenge Bottas in second in a bid to to put Hamilton under pressure, but it proved little too late.
With 50 points separating him from Hamilton in the drivers standings, it looks like his chances of a fifth world crown are all but over.
Coupled with some poor team strategy and his own personal errors this season, the 31-year-old has simply not been good enough to stay consistent in the title battle.
No driver will enjoy the tag, but Bottas carried out a superb wing man job for Hamilton’s win.
The Finn – who started from pole – was not happy at being told to make way for Hamilton on lap 25, but it was the right thing to do.
It’s pointless to keep a faster car behind a slower one, especially if it exposes a firing Ferrari to attack from behind. Even if Hamilton wasn’t leading the championship, it was the right thing to do.
A seventh podium of the season will surely add some gloss for his otherwise industrious weekend, but this was meant to be Bottas’ day and unfortunately his team spoiled the party.
It was a sensational performance from birthday boy Verstappen to finish fourth.
Starting from 19th due to an engine upgrade, he soared to fifth inside the opening eight laps. And although his car was far superior to what was in front of him at the beginning of the race, to move up 13 spots inside such a short space of time shows his drive and class behind the wheel.
After holding the lead briefly,Verstappen finally pitted with nine laps remaining and went on to finish in a commendable position in the points.
Although he would have been happier to secure a podium, the confidence he showed to overtake the Renaults and Haas during the race was remarkable.
Still, it was a formidable finish for the 21-year-old, who is slowly looking back to his best after recent disappointments in Hungary and Silverstone.
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