Ferrari played too many games and a virtual safety car ended any hopes of winning Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix as Mercedes remains perfect in Sochi as a result of that. See, on the opening lap of the 53 Lap race, Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel worked together flawlessly.
Leclerc, started on the pole and allowed the slipstream from his teammate (Vettel) from behind to pull by rival Lewis Hamilton for second and then himself for the lead. The first part of the plan worked. The second…not so much.
Vettel, was then supposed to give the lead back to Leclerc as the final part of team orders. It would ensure a Ferrari 1-2 result. After all, they were the top team all weekend.
Leclerc, won his fourth straight pole on the Formula One season on Saturday and was first, second and first respectively in practice. Vettel, was third, fifth and second respectively in practice himself.
It was their race to lose.
Leclerc, was furious in his teammate for not letting him back by. Vettel, instead pulled away. The second year driver then decided to short pit to ensure he leaps to the lead when the pit sequence ended.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
Vettel and the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas remained out on the track and tried to run their first stint long. Vettel, then lost power while leading and forced with a DNF, his third race in his last four starts that he didn’t earn a podium and the second DNF in his last four Russian Grand Prix starts.
But, due to a virtual safety car coming out so they could retrieve Vettel’s No. 5 Ferrari, it allowed the Mercedes cars to pit without consequence of losing the top spots. Hamilton, would keep the lead now while Bottas exited second. Leclerc, could only restart third instead of first.
Hamilton, would lead the rest of the way en route to his fourth win in Sochi (6 starts) and ninth of the season. It was Mercedes’ first victory since Hungary.
It allows him to extend his points lead on a weekend that looked like he’d lose more ground. If all goes to plan and on pure pace, Ferrari finishes 1-2 and the best Hamilton could do is third. When everything failed, Hamilton wins and makes Mercedes a perfect 6-for-6 in Russia.
Bottas, brought his No. 77 Mercedes home runner-up for his third straight podium in Russia and third in the last four races. Leclerc was third in his No. 16 Ferrari for his fourth consecutive podium effort.
Max Verstappen charged from ninth to finish fourth in his No. 33 Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda. It was the best finish in Russia for a Red Bull car. His rookie teammate Alex Albon rounded out the top five in his No. 23 Honda. Albon, has four straight top six finishes now and five in his last six tries.
The McLaren Racing duo of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris finished sixth and eighth respectively while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was the meat to their sandwich in seventh. Perez, has a top 10 finish in all six Russian Grand Prix’s since 2014.
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.
Russian Grand Prix Results
23 Albon R
55 Sainz Jr.
4 Norris R
88 Kubica OUT
63 Russell R OUT
5 Vettel OUT
3 Ricciardo OUT
8 Grosjean OUT