2018: Round 16/21, RUSSIAN GP, Sochi

HOLLOW HAMILTON HAT-TRICK AS TEAM ORDERS DENY BOTTAS

Lewis extends championship lead over Vettel to 50 points

1st    LEWIS HAMILTON         Mercedes

2nd   VALTTERI BOTTAS        Mercedes

3rd    SEBASTIAN VETTEL     Ferrari

Although Hamilton led in a triumphant Mercedes 1-2, team orders restrained podium festivities. Sochi specialist and last year’s winner Bottas started superbly from pole and with smart positioning helped Hamilton resist Vettel’s vigorous efforts to pass at turns 1 and 2. On lap 12 Bottas pitted first but mistakenly Mercedes left Hamilton out allowing the closely following Vettel an undercut opportunity on lap 13. “How did that happen?” was Hamilton’s reaction as he exited the pits on lap 14 just as Vettel swept by. To retrieve the situation, Lewis attacked Vettel on the following lap at turn 2, Seb forcefully blocking him, but Hamilton wouldn’t be denied, passing him on the inside at turn 4. But this ferocious action left the Mercedes with a blistered left-rear. For the next 10 laps these three ran in close company but up ahead a problem was looming. Starting P19 with an engine penalty, Max Verstappen celebrated his 21st birthday by slicing through the field to reach P5 by lap 8. It was a thrilling drive, the Red Bull assuming the lead once the leaders pitted. But now the leaders were closing in on Max, creating the danger that passing him might give Vettel a chance to overtake Hamilton with his blistered tyre. To protect Hamilton, Bottas was ordered to let him through on lap 25, Lewis assuming P1 and ultimately victory when Verstappen finally pitted on lap 43. Charles Leclerc’s Sauber finished an excellent best of the rest P7.
Incidentally…
Mercedes’ team orders left Bottas disappointed and Hamilton uncomfortable but few would say it was the wrong decision. It gave Hamilton a fifty-point advantage over Vettel with five races remaining. Since their shock defeat at Spa, Mercedes haven’t lost the next three races and now seem on top of their traction and tyre temperature problems. From being fastest car, Ferrari was a full half-a-second down during Sochi qualifying.

The Championship Chase
Hamilton 306, Vettel 256, Bottas 189, Räikkönen 186, Verstappen 158

Mercedes 495, Ferrari 442, Red Bull 292, Renault 91, Haas 80

RS
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