There’s a new ‘Flying Finn’ in the Formula One paddock, after Valtteri Bottas stunned Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari duo Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, to win the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
The win, is Bottas’ first grand prix victory, after 83 grand prix starts.
Starting on the second row alongside teammate Hamilton, Bottas gained a supreme start slipping by not only the Brit, but both Ferrari’s as well, via the superior speed of his Mercedes engine. From there the young Finn was never headed, as he drove confidently and assuredly to an impressive maiden victory.
The Ferrari pair of Vettel and Raikkonen were clearly taken aback by the Bottas challenge, as opposed to Hamilton who was struggling back in 4th place.
It wasn’t smooth sailing though for several other competitors though, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso power unit failed on the warm up lap, leaving the Spaniard frustrated with such an inferior piece of machinery at his disposal.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer collided on the opening lap, ending both their races rather prematurely, with Grosjean less than thrilled with Palmer turning into him as they entered turn 3.
Red Bull’s Dan Ricciardo, also suffered a similar, disappointing fate, with rear brake failure ending is race only five laps in, continuing a frustrating trend for the young Aussie, in 2017.
Pitstops and strategy allowed Bottas to maintain his lead over Vettel, before the four-time world champion began to narrow the margin over the final 15 laps. If Vettel had any chance in overtaking Bottas, he needed to be within one second of him, so to take advantage of DRS. Although, the superior power of the Mercedes engine would’ve made an overtake on the long Sochi straights a tough task.
The closest Vettel came to Bottas was on the final lap, before lapped traffic, Felipe Massa’s Williams, ‘unintentionally’ interfered allowing Bottas to cross the line with some ‘breathing space’.
Behind Vettel, came teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who took out the fastest lap of the race, and generally looked more competitive than he has in recent rounds. A frustrated Lewis Hamilton was fourth after suffering intermittent overheating issues throughout the race.
The lone surviving Red Bull of Max Verstappen finished fifth, leading home the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and
Rounding out the point scorers for the Russian GP were Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. All three of whom continue to significantly outperform their respective teammates.
Although Ferrari failed to take out the top step of the podium, it was still a victory of sorts for Vettel’s world title assault, as he extended his points lead over Lewis Hamilton. As it currently stands, Vettel holds a 13 point lead over Hamilton, who is 10 points clear of Bottas.
If there was any thought that Ferrari’s Australian GP victory was a fluke of strategy over speed, that’s been dispelled in the following three races, with Ferrari more than maintaining and in some cases exceeding the speed of Mercedes. As we enter the European phase of the season, Hamilton will need to get his mojo back as his rivals gain confidence, and an increasingly intimidating points lead.