F1: Bottas takes maiden win in Russia

Posted by sonnyx at 11:06 am on Monday May 01, 2017

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Heading into the Russian Formula 1 weekend, Ferrari was leading the Constructor's Championship from Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel had two wins in three races. We expected this to be another Lewis Hamilton versus Vettel weekend. But this race belonged to another man, right from the start, and that man is Valtteri Bottas.

Ferrari had both cars on the front row of the starting grid for the first time since 2008, with Sebastian on Pole and Kimi Raikkonen on second. Hamilton meanwhile was struggling to keep pace during qualifying, and started fourth on the grid, behind teammate Valtteri Bottas. The tension built up even more when there was a delayed start after Fernando Alonso's McLaren-Honda conked out on the formation lap.

Both Vettel and Bottas got a great start pulling ahead of Kimi and Lewis. But the Mercedes outdragged the Ferrari down the straight, Bottas getting ahead of Vettel on the outside. Behind them, Haas' Romain Grosjean and Renault's Jolyon Palmer crashed into each other on turn 2 bringing the safety car out. Something that Bottas said was helpful to him in a post-race interview. That said, it was the Finnish driver's own skill that helped him build a four-second lead over second place Vettel not long after the restart. Valtteri was in control for the majority of the race with a comfortable pit stop thanks to his lead over the Ferraris. It was only in the final laps that the Finn was under tremendous pressure from the German four-time world champion. It came down to the last lap with Vettel less than a second behind, who got held up by backmarker Felipe Massa, something that many Ferrari fans will not forget soon. But it's all a part of racing and Valtteri Bottas crossed the line to take his first ever Formula One win after 80 races, a massive statement to his fans and to the others after his painful weekend in Bahrain earlier. This isn't just a two-horse race, he's got the skills and the car to win races and battle it out amongst the best on the grid.

Meanwhile, Hamilton had a very disappointing race, struggling through the weekend with handling issues, and with temperature issues on the car from the first few laps. He had one stint where he drove like he usually does and had almost caught up to Kimi, but had to back off and spent the rest of the race nursing his car to the finish in fourth place, more than thirty seconds behind Bottas. He is now 13 points behind Vettel in the World Championship standings, Bottas just 10 points away in third.

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Ferrari must be disappointed with the race result considering how well their qualifying went, getting both cars on the front row of the grid, being quicker than the Mercedes on this circuit. But even so, Bottas was too much for them, and had to settle for second and third place finishes. They are now 1 point behind Mercedes in the Constructor's Championship. Vettel had a good race overall, with the team opting for an overcut strategy this time, pitting him surprisingly late on lap 34, well after the rest of the top 4 had pitted. It almost worked too if it hadn't been for what with Bottas getting the better timing to get past backmarker traffic as compared to Vettel and it really did go down to the wire. But to be on Pole after so long, dethroning Mercedes after an 18 race run, would be a huge boost of confidence for the team. Kimi finished third, his first podium of the season, and while he got the loudest applause from the crowd at Sochi, he was clearly unhappy to still be so far off-pace from his own teammate and the Mercedes cars under normal race circumstances. Even having a fellow Finn on the podium didn't see Kimi crack a smile, but he did clock the fastest lap of the race.

Red Bull Racing had another disappointing weekend with mechanical problems on Max Verstappen's car in practice. The best the Dutch driver could manage was a comfortable fifth place finish. He had a great start, seventh on the grid, getting past Daniel Ricciardo and Massa right away but was surprisingly unnoticeable for the rest of the race. However, it was another bad weekend for Ricciardo who qualified fifth but had a mechanical fault that ended his race after lap 5.

Team Force India had another successful weekend with Sergio Perez starting 9th on the grid and Esteban Ocon in 10th. While there wasn't much mid-order overtaking and racing to witness on this circuit, both drivers did a good job keeping pace with the rest of the pack and not making mistakes. Thanks to a little bit of luck, Perez finished 6th and Ocon in 7th, both drivers scoring some very useful points for the team.

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The Williams Team are probably thanking their lucky stars that Massa came out of retirement for one more season with them, as rookie Lance Stroll is still struggling. While Stroll did manage to finish the race for once, albeit in 11th place, it was Massa who got them some points again with a 9th place finish. The Brazillian could have finished 6th had it not been for an unlucky puncture forcing him to pit again for a fresh set of tyres.

Carlos Sainz in his Toro Rosso took the last point-scoring position of the race after starting 14th on the grid. Teammate Daniil Kvyat had another disappointing race at home, qualifying and finishing in 12th position. Another team that got both its cars across the finish line was Sauber with Marcus Ericcson finishing 15th and Pascal Wehrlein finishing last in 16th.

The woes continued for Team Renault with Palmer having another disappointing weekend, crashing out in qualifying and then in the first lap of the race. Nico Hulkenberg had a much better weekend, having qualified and finished in 8th place, showing that the Renault engine has potential. The Haas F1 team had a chance to score some points with Kevin Magnussen but he was awarded a five-second penalty for driving off the track limits and finished 13th overall. Meanwhile, teammate Grosjean crashed out on the first lap.

But it seems none have it worse than the McLaren Honda team which couldn't even get both cars to start the race this time. Stoffel Vandoorne did manage to finish 14th, but Alonso's car didn't even get to the pits as he retired on the formation lap due to an ERS failure. Also, Vandoorne was given a 15 place grid penalty for having used more engines than allocated per season, and it's just the fourth race. We suspect Alonso fans are glad that the Spaniard has the Indy race to look forward to later this summer.

There's plenty to come with the improved cars thanks to the in-season testing, that will race in Spain two weeks from now, so stay tuned.

Final classification:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1h28m08.743s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.617s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +11.000s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +36.320s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault +1m00.416s
6 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes +1m26.788s
7 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes +1m35.004s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1m36.188s
9 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes +1 Lap
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault +1 Lap
11 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes +1 Lap
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault +1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari +1 Lap
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda +1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari +1 Lap
16 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber/Ferrari +2 Laps
-Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault DNF(Brakes)
-Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari DNF(Collision)
-Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda Not-started
-Jolyon Palmer Renault DNF(Collision)

TAGS// mercedes, f1, formula one, ferrari, vettel, raikkonen, hamilton, red bull racing, max verstappen, f1 2017, bottas, nico, f1 russia 2017, russian formula one, formula one 2017

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