Toto Wolff happy to play the "baddie" after Lewis Hamilton's controversial Russia win

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he is happy to be the villain after standing by his controversial decision to orchestrate Lewis Hamilton‘s Russian Grand Prix victory on Sunday.

Hamilton will head into the concluding five rounds of the season with a 50-point lead over Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel following his win at the Sochi Autodrom.

The 33-year-old Briton was running behind Valtteri Bottas before Mercedes ordered the Finn to move aside at the midway point.

To Mercedes’ credit, they have rarely used team orders, and only did so here fearing that Hamilton would be exposed to Vettel, thus denying Bottas his opening win of the year.

Hamilton gained an extra seven points meaning he can now afford to finish second at the final races and still claim his fifth world championship.

“At the end, if five points or three points are missing then you are the biggest idiot on the planet by prioritising Valtteri’s race over the championship,” Wolff said.

Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton.

Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton.

“Somebody needs to be the baddie and it’s me today.

“You need to weigh it up. To be the baddie on Sunday evening, for many right reasons, or be the idiot in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season. I’d rather be the baddie today.”

Hamilton was a reluctant winner, and chose not to celebrate his 70th career victory. This type of gift-wrapped win is not his style.

He immediately sought to console Bottas, and then invited his team-mate to join him on the top step of the podium. Hamilton even appeared to suggest to the deflated Finn that he should lift the winners’ trophy in front of the watching Russian president Vladimir Putin, who arrived for the final laps of the race.

“It doesn’t feel great,” Hamilton said. “I definitely don’t think I have finished first in my career, and felt the way that I do right now.

“Only time will tell if it was necessary, but if we were to lose the championship by one point, would you look back at this race and think we should have worked as a team?

“We are a team, and the team want to win both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, so that is why the bosses took the decision.”

Bottas, who started Sunday’s race 110 points behind Hamilton and out of championship contention, had pleaded to switch positions back with his team-mate shortly before the chequered flag, but his request was denied.

“Lewis is fighting for the championship and I am not so from the team’s point of view it was the ideal result, but maybe not ideal for me,” Bottas said.

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Lewis Hamilton 'not feeling great' despite winning Russian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton with Bottas

Lewis Hamilton stood by Mercedes‘ decision to manufacture his controversial win in Russia that takes him ever closer to a fifth world championship.

Hamilton will head into the final five rounds with an almost uncatchable 50-point lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after team-mate Valtteri Bottas was ordered out of his way at the Sochi Autodrom.

Bottas was in complete control of the race only for Mercedes to instruct him to step aside with 30 laps remaining.

To the absolute credit of Mercedes, they have avoided using team orders in their recent history, but with Vettel still in striking range of Hamilton, they adopted a change of tact here, denying Bottas his first win of 2018 and handing their star driver seven extra, and potentially, critical points.

Hamilton was a reluctant winner, and chose not to celebrate. Instead, he immediately sought to console Bottas.

This type of victory is not Hamilton’s style. Instead, he invited Bottas to join him on the top step of the podium, and even appeared to suggest to the deflated Finn that he should lift the winners’ trophy in front of the watching Russian president Vladimir Putin, who arrived for the concluding laps.

Bottas stared vacantly as the national anthems were played, and the mood had eased little by the time both Mercedes drivers appeared alongside Vettel for the post-race press conference.

“It doesn’t feel great,” Hamilton said. “I definitely don’t think I have finished first in my career, and feel the way that I do right now.

“Only time will tell if it was necessary, but if we were to lose the championship by one point, would you look back at this race and think we should have worked as a team?


“We are a team, and the team want to win both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, so that is why the bosses took the decision.”

Toto Wolff, team principal for the Silver Arrows, admitted it was an agonising decision, and one which led to him enduring a restless night on Saturday after Bottas beat Hamilton to pole.

Team orders were regular practice for Ferrari during Michael Schumacher’s commanding era. Some, rather harshly, compared this result to the farce of Austria in 2002 when Rubens Barrichello was instructed to move out of Schumacher’s way on the final lap.

Such was the uproar, that it resulted in a ban on team orders which Ferrari breached when they ordered Felipe Massa aside for Fernando Alonso in Germany in 2010.

At the end of that year, the ban was lifted. Unlike on both those occasions, Bottas, 110 points behind Hamilton before Sunday’s race, stood no chance of winning the title.

“At the end, if five points or three points are missing then you are the biggest idiot on the planet by prioritising Valtteri’s race over the championship,” Wolff said.

“Somebody needs to be the baddie and it’s me today. You need to weigh it up. To be the baddie on Sunday evening, for many right reasons, or be the idiot in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season. I’d rather be the baddie today.”

Bottas was leading after he held off Hamilton and Vettel on the opening-lap drag race to turn two. Hamilton was slow out of his starting blocks, but kept Vettel at bay only to fall behind the German when he stopped for tyres.

The strategy error provoked a furious reaction from Wolff, who smashed his fist on a table as he watched on from the Mercedes garage. Hamilton took less than two laps to pass Vettel, but damaged his tyres in the process.

Mercedes feared the damage would leave him exposed, so on lap 23, Bottas’ race engineer, Tony Ross, delivered the bad news. “You need to let Lewis by into turn 13 of this lap,” he said.

Bottas slowed down, moved to the right, and Hamilton took the position before cruising to a victory that leaves him on the brink of his fourth championship in five years with only 125 points to play for.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth, while Max Verstappen drove spectacularly from 19th to fifth on his 21st birthday.

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Lewis Hamilton inches closer to fifth world title and other talking points from Russian GP

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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.

HAMILTON MASTERCLASS

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.

UNLUCKY BOTTAS

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.

RUDDY VERSTAPPEN

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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