Valtteri Bottas Takes His Second Win Of The Season at Sochi

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas took his second win of the season, and his first since the season opener in Austria, at the Russian Grand Prix. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished a distant second with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in third.

Hamilton started from pole position but was placed under investigation just before the race started as it was deemed he did his practice starts too far out of the pit lane and in an unsafe area. He was given a 10-second penalty during the race, which he had to service during a pit stop and thus took him out of contention for the race win.

It was a much-needed win for Bottas, whose championship challenge had dimmed over recent races, but he passed Max Verstappen at the start and was left in clear air once Hamilton pitted to serve his penalty and take on fresh tires. It will serve as a confidence booster too, having only won one Grand Prix this year, which was back in July at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix. He almost overtook Hamilton into turn 3 for the lead, but he got a bad exit out of the corner, which he put down to a large bee hitting his visor. First time I’ve heard that one.

Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Racing Point after a quiet race, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in fifth for Renault. Ricciardo had a 5-second penalty handed to him during the race for going off track and passing his teammate Esteban Ocon, but he finished far enough ahead of Charles LeClerc in the Ferrari to keep his fifth place. Ocon eventually finished in seventh, one place of Daniil Kvyat who finished eighth at his home Grand Prix. Pierre Gasly finished ninth in the second Alpha Tauri and the top 10 was rounded out by Alex Albon in the other Red Bull after a disappointing race following his heroics at the previous round in Mugello. He had to start 15th after a gearbox change but would have been disappointed to not finish higher up in the decent Red Bull.

It was a chaotic start to the race, with Carlos Sainz having an accident all by himself as he hit the wall trying to rejoin the track at turn 3 and Lance Stroll was tapped into a spin by LeClerc and spun into the wall, triggering the Safety Car. Stroll was unhappy with LeClerc, saying it was ridiculous that he didn’t get a penalty, but LeClerc drove on unharmed.

Following the first lap drama and Hamilton’s penalty, it was a largely uneventful race, with a few drivers running wide on the exit of turn 2/3, notably Romain Grosjean (him again), as he ran wide following a battle with another car and plowed straight through the polystyrene barriers.

Who else finished?

Antonio Giovinazzi drove a strong race to finish 11th in the Alfa Romeo, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the Haas. Sebastian Vettel had a disappointing race following his heavy crash in qualifying and finished 13th ahead of his old teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the second Alfa Romeo. Raikkonen is now a joint record holder, with both himself and Rubens Barrichello having started the most races on 322. Lando Norris finished 15th on a disappointing weekend for McLaren, with Nicholas Latifi ahead of Romain Grosjean in his Williams. Grosjean finished ahead of George Russell, who was last of the drivers still running after another weekend to forget for the Williams team.

Only two drivers failed to finish: Lance Stroll in the Racing Point and Carlos Sainz in the McLaren.

Hamilton’s Penalty Issues

Lewis certainly had plenty to say after the race. He even went as far as saying people were ‘trying to stop him’ after being awarded the penalty. He did also have two penalty points added to his racing license, taking him up to 10 and just 2 away from a race ban, but these were later rescinded.

He wasn’t happy, fair enough. But there’s no need to say people are trying to stop him and questioning where what he had done wrong was in the rule book. It was quickly pointed out exactly where it was and the penalty was unavoidable.

His reaction really irritated me. He was acting like a petulant child who didn’t get his way. I know adrenaline runs high and tempers can flare, but there’s no need to say people are actively trying to stop him. The penalty points were removed as it was the team’s fault and not his for telling him it was ok to do a practice start where he did when it wasn’t. But he still has a healthy lead over his teammate in the championship and he still drove a good race to get a podium.

No one is trying to stop him winning this championship, but he and the team have made a few errors this season, most notably bringing him in to pit when the pit lane was closed in Monza, and now the most recent issue in Russia. If anyone is responsible for costing him points, it’s the team.

Just as a quick side note, I loved how Ricciardo dealt with the news of his 5-Second penalty:

“Daniel, we have a 5-Second penalty for leaving the track.”

“Ok, I’ll drive faster.”

“Thanks, buddy.”

That’s how you deal with it!

Bottas Finally Delivers!

It’s becoming a running joke during our F1 Fans Show podcast (Mondays, 8 pm) that we should have a ‘Bemoaning Bottas’ section, due to his lack of fight and how he seems to be happy playing second fiddle. But this race was different. He made a brilliant start to jump Verstappen and almost got ahead of his teammate. But as soon as Hamilton came in, this was Bottas’ race to lose. He kept his head down, kept pumping in fastest laps, and built a good distance between himself and his competitors. His championship needed a race like this, and I’m sure he needed it as a driver and a person. Hopefully, this will give him a boost as we head into the remaining races of this very strange season.

So, there is no ‘Bemoaning Bottas’ section this week, and long may that continue! I don’t like criticising Bottas, and he certainly silenced a few critics this weekend. As he said after the race “To whom it may concern…**** You”. More of that fire please Valtteri!

How Is The Championship Looking Now?

Lewis Hamilton still leads of course, with 205 points. Bottas is second on 161 with Verstappen third on 128. Norris is still fourth on 65 points, one ahead of Alex Albon on 64.

Mercedes are dominating the constructor's championship, with 366 points. Their nearest challengers are Red Bull on 192 and McLaren on 106, only two points ahead of Racing Point.

As may be the case for some time, Williams are still the only team yet to score so far this season. The F1 Fans Show can be painful at times for me, being a Williams fan…

Where Are We Heading Next?

A place and track with plenty of F1 heritage and exciting races under its belt: Germany! More specifically, the Nurburgring. We head there on the 9th of October, so it’s a couple of weeks away annoyingly.

It can deliver good races and can be unpredictable. F1 hasn’t been here since 2013, and a lot has changed since then. I can’t wait!

As always, take care, stay safe and join us Mondays at 8 PM for our F1 Fans Show! Get involved and have your say!

Steve Thomson