Grand Prix of Russia – Race

There are a lot of penalties to apply, and Qualifying session 2 (Q2) was a bit pointless as there were 4 drivers getting grid penalties and one making a tactical decision to qualify P11 so they’d have a free choice of tyres for the race.

The grid without penalties: BOT, HAM, VET, RAI, MAG, OCO, LEC, PER, GRO, ERI, VER*, RIC*, GAS*, SAI, HUL, HAR*, ALO*, SIR, VAN*, STR.
*VER, RIC, GAS, HAR, ALO & VAN all get penalties for new power unit elements.
Birthday-boy VER was also given an additional three-place grid penalty and two licence penalty points for failing to slow down for yellow flags when Sergey Sirotkin spun his Williams in Q1.

So, with penalties applied, the grid is now: BOT, HAM, VET, RAI, MAG, OCO, LEC, PER, GRO, ERI, SAI, HUL, SIR, STR, VAN, ALO, GAS, RIC, VER, HAR.

It looks like there’s some rain in the air as the cars make their way to the grid
Air temperature 25°C; track 29°C; wind 1.4m/s; humidity 54%

There’s an ominous tray at the rear of HAM’s car – looks like there might be a small oil leak

BOT leads everyone away on the formation lap
Williams and McLaren have their cars on ultrasofts; Red Bull and Renault are on softs

01/53: VET gets a great start – he’s alongside HAM into Turn 1
Yellow flag in Sector 1
VER up to P13

02: BOT, HAM, VET, RAI, MAG, LEC, OCO, PER, GRO, ERI, SAI, HUL, VER, STR, SIR, ALO, VAN, RIC, HAR, GAS
ALO past SIR for P15 but SIR fights back

03: BOT fastest lap 1:40.109
VER around ERI for P10
VER now past GRO for P9

04: BOT f/lap 1:39.849
HAR pits – he’d spun and flat-spotted his tyres
VER takes P8 from PER

05/53: BOT, HAM, VET, RAI, LEC, MAG, OCO, VER, PER, GRO, ERI, SAI, RIC, HUL, STR, SIR, ALO, VAN, GAS, HAR
HAM f/lap 1:39.770
GAS pits – he’d had a spin too
VER makes a nice move on OCO
Looks like HAR and GAS are still in the Toro Rosso garages – could be a double retirement

06: ALO pits; goes to soft tyres; will he try to go to the end without another stop?
MAG locks up and VER takes P6

07: BOT f/lap 1:39.517

08: VER lines up LEC; easily past for P5 – teammate RIC is up to P10
STR pits

09: GRO pits

10/53: MAG pits; softs go on; rejoins P13
BOT, HAM, VET, RAI, VER, LEC, OCO, PER, RIC, HUL, ERI, SAI, MAG, VAN, SIR, ALO, STR; retirements: GAS, HAR

11: LEC and OCO pit, followed by SIR

12: BOT has 1.2sec lead over HAM, who in turn is 1.6sec ahead of VET
ERI pits, as does VAN

13: BOT pits from P1; softs go on; 2.9sec stopped; rejoins P5
PER pits from P8; softs; rejoins P12

14: VET pits from P2; softs; 2.8sec stop; rejoins P5
HAM is catching SIR – that’s not going to be a quick lap

15/53: HAM pits from P1; softs; 2.5sec stop; rejoins P5, just inches behind VET
VER f/lap 1:39.507
Radio from HAM – “how did that happen?”

16: VET f/lap 1:39.353
HAM attacks; looks at a gap on the inside; VET slams the door shut and there’s almost contact
HAM attacks again; gets VET this time

17: RAI, VER, BOT, HAM, VET, RIC, HUL, LEC, SAI, MAG, OCO, PER, GRO, ERI, ALO, STR, VAN, SIR
HAM f/lap 1:38.644
Race control: Turn 2 incident involving cars 5 (VET) and 44 (HAM) under investigation – moving more than once to defend the position

18: BOT f/lap 1:38.535
RAI pits; rejoins P5

20/53: VER, BOT, HAM, VET, RAI, RIC, HUL, LEC, MAG, OCO, PER, SAI, GRO, ERI, ALO, STR, VAN, SIR; retirements: GAS, HAR
VET f/lap 1:38.429
Radio from PER – “we need to push; can I overtake?”; he’s told they just need to stay ahead of HUL

21: HAM f/lap 1:38.410
RAI f/lap 1:38.039
Radio for OCO – “you’ve got 3 laps” to get past MAG

22: Race control – no further action in the VET/HAM incident

23: RAI f/lap 1:38.025
HAM closing on BOT – 0.5sec gap means HAM gets DRS

24: Replay of SAI being passed by MAG – there was a little contact as MAG reclaims the racing line; SAI on the radio saying MAG deserves a 5-sec penalty
Interview – GAS reports he had a problem with the brake pedal

25/53: HAM takes P2 from teammate BOT – that was team orders telling BOT to let HAM pass

26: PER takes P10 from teammate OCO – that was team orders too

Half distance

27: VET runs a little wide

28: Radio for BOT – James Vowles (chief strategist) saying they had to make the switch to defend from VET

29: HAM f/lap 1:37.947
RAI f/lap 1:37.770

30/53: VER, HAM, BOT, VET, RAI, RIC, HUL, LEC, MAG, PER, OCO, GRO, ERI, SAI, ALO, STR, VAN, SIR
Remember VER started on soft tyres, so he still needs to pit (as do RIC, HUL and SAI)

32: Radio from HAM – “I’ve got hesitations coming from the engine”; also “blister on my left rear” (actually on both rears)

33: VET f/lap 1:37.750
Radio for PER telling him they’ll switch back if he doesn’t pass MAG

34: SAI pits; rejoins P16
Radio for OCO telling him once HUL pits they’ll switch him and PER back

35/53: VER, HAM, BOT, VET, RAI, RIC, HUL, LEC, MAG, PER, OCO, GRO, ERI, ALO, STR, SAI, VAN, SIR

36: RAI f/lap 1:37.555
HUL pits from P7; ultrasofts go on; rejoins P11
That leaves just the Red Bull pair who have yet to pit

37: Radio for PER telling him if he doesn’t have DRS (behind MAG) then they’ll switch back
PER lets OCO reclaim P9

38: HAM f/lap 1:37.395

39: HAM f/lap 1:37.316
ERI pits; rejoins P13

40/53: VER, HAM, BOT, VET, RAI, RIC, LEC, MAG, OCO, PER, HUL, GRO, ERI, ALO, STR, SAI, VAN, SIR
VET f/lap 1:37.116
RIC pits from P6; new front wing; ultrasofts go on; rejoins still P6

41: Radio from HUL (who presumably is seeing blue flags as VER closes on him) asking “Red Bull is leader?”; confirmed; “How did that happen?”; told “he’s not pitted yet”

43: RIC f/lap 1:36.345 – that front wing damage really was holding him up
VER, HAM, BOT and VET all in the same shot – things are close at the front

44: VER pits from P1; ultrasofts go on; rejoins P5 – I wonder why they didn’t go with hypersofts?

45/53: HAM, BOT, VET, RAI, VER, RIC, LEC, MAG, OCO, PER, HUL, GRO, ERI, ALO, STR, SAI, VAN, SIR; retirements: GAS, HAR
Radio from ALO asking what’s the fastest lap – is he thinking about putting in a late quick lap?

46: HAM f/lap 1:36.185

47: PER is lapped by the top three

49: VET runs wide again

50/53: HAM, BOT, VET, RAI, VER, RIC, LEC, MAG, OCO, PER, GRO, HUL, ERI, ALO, STR, SAI, VAN, SIR
HAM f/lap 1:36.137

51: HAM f/lap 1:35.916
BOT f/lap 1:35.861 – is he making a case to switch back to P1?
VER doesn’t seem to have the same pace on the new ultrasofts that he had on tired softs – strange!

52: HAM lapping (for a second time) SIR then VAN and SAI
Radio from BOT asking “how are we going to finish the race?”; told “positions stay as they are – we’ll talk about it afterwards”

53 = final lap: VAN follows BOT past SAI – clever steal of P16

HAM takes the chequered flag
Radio for BOT from Toto Wolff – “difficult day”, “let’s discuss it afterwards”

Provisional result: HAM, BOT, VET, RAI, VER, RIC, LEC, MAG, OCO, PER; GRO, HUL, ERI, ALO, STR, VAN, SAI, SIR
DNF: GAS, HAR

Despite starting P19, VER led the most laps of this race!

No big celebration from HAM as he gets out of his car
Handshakes with the team rather than jumping into the group

Interviews:
HAM: “it’s actually quite a difficult day”; “Valtteri was a real gentleman to let me by”; “he’s not fighting for the championship”; “I can understand how difficult it was for Valtteri”
BOT: “difficult day”; “it is what it is”
VET: “at the start I had nowhere to go”; claims he left HAM room to pass after the pit stop

Awkward time in the cool down room – not only between HAM & BOT, but with Vladimir Putin in the room casting a dark shadow – HAM tells Putin it wasn’t him who sprayed the Russian President with champagne last year

The Mercedes pair are still quite subdued on the podium
It’s clear that even the Mercedes team feel a bit sheepish but I think Mercedes were right to make that swap – it’s a team sport, and Mercedes wanted to ensure 1st and 2nd (As opposed to when team orders were illegal and Ferrari still arranged their drivers)

Toto Wolff: “we are all racers at heart”; “we’re also a bunch of rational guys”; “Valtteri is a tremendous team player”
Small consolation is that BOT had the fastest lap of the race, 1:35.861

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