Lewis Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix: F1 – as it happened
Mercedes earned a one-two in Sochi, where Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory to extend his drivers’ championship lead to 73 points
Thanks for your company. Read Giles Richards’s race report:
Vettel is asked if Ferrari are guilty of overcomplicating the team strategy. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” he says. “We had an agreement. I spoke with Charles [Leclerc] in particular before the race, I thought it was quite clear but maybe I missed something. We wanted to have the cars one and two. It’s not the result we wanted. We talked about a strategy to find a way past Lewis. I think we did just race, until the pit stop in a way. Up to that point, that’s what we did. It’s bitter, because this year has been tough. I was really on top of it, finding the rhythm and fastest up until the stop. But it was only a half-job.”
A peek at the drivers’ championship:
Up on the podium, Lewis Hamilton is all smiles. That feels a significant win, even if things fell nicely for them after Ferrari seemed to shoot themselves in the foot, ultimately paying the price for squabbling over race tactics. “They [Mercedes] have been pushing forwards and always trying to be innovative and just never giving up. It makes me feel inspired and it’s incredible to have this result today. Keeping up with [Ferrari] was a hard task” .
Charles Leclerc is asked whether he has lost any faith in Ferrari given how Sebastian Vettel seemed to ignore the plan in Sochi. “I will always trust the team but the tactic was me giving the slipstream to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened, but then I don’t know … I need to speak with the team to know better the situation,” says the Monégasque driver.
Has Hamilton now got his eyes set on bagging a sixth drivers’ championship? His response is very cliche, very sensible. “I try not to think too much about the championship, it’s one race, one step at a time,” he says. “One foot in front of the other – we don’t want to stumble. But of course we have to keep putting in performances like this. The team back in Stuttgart will be really happy.”
“Get in there Lewis, what a race, awesome drive!” Mercedes bellow down the team radio. “P1, P2, silver arrows.” Hamilton is, it is safe to say, over the moon with that, as he storms to victory. “What a great effort, incredible effort guys,” he says. “That’s exactly what we needed, we never give up.” Hamilton is ecstatic, jumping into his team of engineers at Parc fermé. That’s a massive leap towards a sixth drivers’ championship. Leclerc high-fives the Ferrari clan – but they made a mess of that race, typified by Vettel’s premature exit. Hamilton says: “Firstly, an incredible job by all of the guys this weekend, never giving up. We keep pushing.”
It has not been without drama – but a rather straightforward finish for Lewis Hamilton, who earns his ninth win this year! A Mercedes one-two, with Bottas taking second ahead of Charles Leclerc. Toto Wolff, as he was before the race, is all smiles. Job done.
Lap 53/53: Final lap! Hamilton leads by 4.6secs!
Lap 52/53: Lewis Hamilton leads Bottas by 4.9secs. He’s going to do it, isn’t he? Charles Leclerc trails Bottas by 1.6secs.
Lap 51/53: A timely fastest lap by Hamilton, who racks up a 1.35.761. That comes seconds after Leclerc says he will try and go one better and nab the fastest lap – if nothing else – in Sochi. He seems resigned to a third-placed finish.
Lap 50/53: Barring disaster, Hamilton will win his ninth race this year! And, better still for Mercedes, they are primed for a one-two with Leclerc close to giving up the ghost in his chase on a stubborn Valtteri Bottas.
Lap 49/53: Hamilton leads Bottas by 4.8secs.
Lap 48/53: Five to go! A disappointing end to a decent day’s racing for Kevin Magnussen, with the Haas slapped with a five-second penalty for leaving the track at turn two. He’s eighth, but that punishment would take him out of the points.
Lap 47/53: Ferrari are revving up Leclerc, who says he’s giving everything he’s got to try and close the gap to Bottas. “You can do this Nico, you can do this,” is the motivation down the team radio for Hülkenberg. But Hamilton is close to putting his feet up. Hamilton leads Bottas by more than five seconds now …
Lap 45/53: Is Ferrari’s three-race winning run about to come to an abrupt end in Sochi? Lewis Hamilton looks very comfortable out in front. He leads his Mercedes colleague Valtteri Bottas by 4.3secs. Then there’s Leclerc. Next up is the Japan GP on 13 October. Ferrari haven’t won there since Michael Schumacher did in 2004.
Lap 44/53: Magnussen goes wide – and Sergio Pérez bypasses the Haas. It is turning into a decent afternoon for Racing Point, with Lance Stroll 11th and tussling with Hülkenberg for 10th. Plenty of life left in that race.
Lap 43/53: Hamilton sets another fastest lap, whizzing round in 1.36.467. An eventful race is in danger of drawing to a relatively routine finish, unless Leclerc can ramp things up on Bottas. Here’s how we stand with 10 laps to go:
2 Bottas + 4.1secs
3 Leclerc + 1.18secs
4 Verstappen + 3.9secs
5 Sainz + 16secs
6 Albon +4secs
7 Magnussen + 2secs
Lap 42/53: Hamilton is not hanging around. Asked to pick up the pace, he puts his foot down and accelerates to 4.04secs away from Bottas. Breathing space. Leclerc is just over one second behind Bottas, who is in for a busy finish.
Lap 40/53: Hamilton leads Bottas by 3.5secs. Hamilton is hunting out race win No 82 and chasing his ninth win of the year. Mercedes let Hamilton know Bottas is under pressure, so maybe they want him to extend his lead and stretch things.
Lap 39/53: Are Mercedes heading for an unlikely one-two? Hamilton leads Valtteri Bottas by 3.03secs, and then there’s Charles Leclerc, determined to usurp the Mercedes into second. Verstappen trails Leclerc by 2.6secs. The Red Bull could yet finish on the podium. Bottas acknowledges he’s under the cosh.
Lap 38/53: Hamilton is supercharged. He racks up a 1.36.639.
Lap 37/53: Hamilton has just set a new fastest lap of 1.37.118. The Mercedes is very much in the box seat after struggling to match Ferrari’s pace for so long. Beyond the front, Alexander Albon is up to seventh having overtaken Lando Norris and Sergio Pérez. Verstappen, meanwhile, is riding high in fourth after starting from ninth. This is looking like a much better day than Red Bull anticipated. Kevin Magnussen is next in Albon’s sights.
Lap 35/53: Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.23secs. A meaningless but encouraging stat for Mercedes: Hamilton has never failed to take victory at Sochi after taking the lead at the Russia GP, winning here in 2014, 2015 and 2018 …
Lap 33/53: The field compresses as the safety car departs – but Hamilton remains out in front. Leclerc is piling the pressure on Bottas. Verstappen locks up going into the final turn but the Red Bull gets away with it. Sainz, in fifth, bares his teeth. A reminder that Grosjean, Kubica, Russell, Ricciardo and Vettel are out.
Lap 32/53: “So Ferrari are still behind us?” asks Hamilton. Believe it or not, yep. Valtteri Bottas is directly behind him, trailing by 1.5secs and then there is Charles Leclerc, who started on pole but now finds himself in a third.
Lap 31/53: Leclerc pits again … the Ferrari goes on to a younger tyre, identical to those Lewis Hamilton is whizzing round on. Meanwhile, Robert Kubica has also been retired, shortly after a brake failure ended Russell’s race.
Lap 30/53: George Russell’s race is also run – and we have yellow flags and a safety car out on track, which will bunch up the pack ever so slightly. A torrid afternoon in Sochi for Sebastian Vettel, whose race started so promisingly. He jumped into the lead in the first corner of the race and was cruising until an engine issue flared up seconds after heading into the pits …
Lap 29/53: Vettel’s retirement and the arrival of the virtual safety car has given Mercedes a big foot-up. Lewis Hamilton is the new race leader, eight seconds or so in front of Charles Leclerc. Then there’s Bottas in third. What a mess for Ferrari. This certainly wasn’t the Plan C they eventually moved on to.
Lap 28/53: Sebastian Vettel is out of the Russia GP!! … you couldn’t make it up! Channelling his inner John McEnroe, Vettel fumes down the team radio: “You cannot be serious.” The German’s first DNF of the season. Ferrari engineers bow their head in shame. Vettel must be absolutely livid. Things were rosy but with Ferrari intent on restoring Leclerc ahead of Vettel, they have cocked things up. Vettel had a kinetic engine problem. A sucker-punch for Ferrari.
Lap 27/53: “We need you to push, push this lap,” Leclerc is told down the Ferrari radio. And he has given it a bit of oomph, so much so that Leclerc jumps into third ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The team radio is going to make wonderful listening in the next few minutes …
Lap 26/53: Vettel pits – and Hamilton takes over the lead! Daniel Ricciardo’s race is over, confirm Renault. He ultimately sustained too much damage in that first-lap collision with Grosjean. He trudges off into the pits and that’s that. His race is run.
Lap 25/53: Vettel is running into a bit of traffic, while Leclerc sets a new fastest lap with those fresh new mediums on. As for Hamilton, the message from Mercedes is clear. “Lewis get your head down, we are going to be extending.” Hamilton’s riposte? “My head is down, the tyres are good.”
Lap 24/53: Ferrari are primed for Vettel’s arrival in the pits.
Lap 23/53: Twenty-three laps in, there is little evidence of any of these bizarre pre-planned Ferrari tactics are working. And certainly not in Charles Leclerc’s favour, even if the Ferrari will be confident of catching third-placed Bottas. Leclerc only went two-tenths quicker through the middle sector than Vettel, who, fingers in his ears, continues to rip it up out in front.
Lap 22/53: Vettel stays out and Leclerc pits … Vettel effectively storms off into the sunset as medium-compound tyres go on to the Ferrari. It’s a bit of a sluggish stop and Hamilton zooms into second. Hammer time. Leclerc comes out into fourth.
Lap 21/53: Vettel leads Leclerc by 4.4secs. Meanwhile, Nico Hülkenberg speeds in front of Giovinazzi and into 16th.
Lap 19/53: Leclerc is struggling to get anywhere near Vettel. He trails his Ferrari team-mate by more than four seconds, despite being told to push. “There is something definitely wrong with the brakes,” says 12th-placed Albon down the team radio. Nico Hülkenberg is down in 17th after a sluggish pit.
Lap 17/53: Mercedes tell Lewis Hamilton “target plus 15” – seemingly wanting him to jet round on these mediums for at least another 15 laps’ time. They want to leave it as late as possible before switching to softs. Hamilton believes his tyres are already suffering from degradation, a few blisters and such.
Lap 16/53: “And you can push now,” Ferrari tell Leclerc, as Vettel racks up another lightning lap. But how can Leclerc get close to him? Leclerc is 4secs behind the race leader, who is enjoying himself out in front. We’re in for a fascinating few laps. Hamilton is third, 7secs behind Leclerc. Infighting threatens to overshadow this race – but Ferrari are in the driving seat either way.
Lap 15/53: “These guys have some serious pace,” Hamilton says of the Ferraris in front him. He trails second-placed Leclerc by 3.6secs. But the race leader Vettel is really motoring, racking up fastest laps and sectors for fun. His tailor-made strategy seems to be leave Leclerc for dead and then it will be nigh-on impossible for him to trade places with his team-mate anyway. Smooth.
Lap 14/53: Verstappen has already clambered up to sixth from ninth – and now the Red Bull has Carlos Sainz in his sights. Leclerc must be close to imploding. “I completely understand, the only thing is and I respect it but I gave him [Vettel] the slipstream no problems and then I try and to push at the beginning of the race,” Leclerc says.” No problems. Another situation.” No problems, eh?
Lap 13/53: Charles Leclerc was supposed to be leading now but Ferrari rowed back on their original plan and Vettel, who has just set yet another fastest lap, is 3.5secs to the good out in front. Hamilton trails Leclerc by 3.3secs.
Lap 11/53: Pace is certainly not a problem for Vettel, who sets a new fastest lap of 1.38min. Exhilarating speed for the Ferrari. Hamilton and Bottas, on the medium tyres, are lagging behind.
Lap 10/53: “We are looking to Plan C,” says Ferrari down the team radio. Plan A went out of the window and Plan B has seemingly been abandoned. They are making this up as they go along. Charles Leclerc sounds pretty fed up stating he respects the situation. His face must be a picture. Vettel is whizzing round Sochi, setting a new fastest lap of 1.39.016. The next message from Ferrari? “Charles, we will do the swap a bit later on, Lewis is a bit close, just focus on your race …”
Lap 9/53: Lovely, Vettel sets a new fastest lap. He’s not letting up, with Leclerc almost 2secs behind his Ferrari team-mate. Räikkönen, meanwhile, has a drive-through penalty for that false start on the grid at the race start.
Lap 8/53: Leclerc and Vettel are having a ding-dong down the team radio. The German seems growingly reluctant to swap places with his Ferrari team-mate, while Leclerc says he has abided instructions without the favour being returned. He seems pretty up tight. It will be interesting how this saga plays out. And down in the battle for seventh, Max Verstappen edges past Sergio Pérez.
Lap 7/53: Bottas zooms beyond Sainz to retake fourth.
Lap 6/53: “Sebastian will let you by next lap,” say Ferrari down the team radio to Leclerc. Very interesting. Early tactics from Ferrari. Vettel appears pretty happy with that but seems to want a couple of laps. Meanwhile, Räikkönen is under investigation, seemingly for that jump start on the grid, which will likely result in a penalty.
Lap 5/53: Vettel leads Leclerc by 1sec.
Lap 4/53: We’re back racing, with the safety car trotting off the track. Vettel leads his Ferrari colleague Leclerc, with Hamilton in third. Renault are relatively happy that Ricciardo got off scot-free – a puncture aside – from that first-lap clash with Grosjean. Meanwhile, a new nose goes on for Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo. Leclerc is certainly sticking close to Vettel, who is going at it full throttle. Ferrari inform Leclerc they are planning a swap later on.
Lap 3/53: A spectacular launch by Vettel helps the Ferrari fly to the front of the pack at his team-mate Leclerc’s expense. That was exactly what the 21-year-old will have feared. Still, it’s a Ferrari one-two. Meanwhile, a jump start Kimi Räikkönen on his 307th race start. Replays show Giovinazzi was involved in that collision between Ricciardo and Grosjean. Three into one doesn’t go and it’s Grosjean that comes off the worst. New tyres on for Ricciardo.
Lap 2/53: Well, well, well! We have a safety car out on track. Grosjean tangled with Ricciardo, who heads for the pits to sort out that puncture. A lively start in Sochi. “Everyone OK?” asks third-placed Hamilton, before being informed that it is Grosjean whose race has ended prematurely. The sorry Haas is carried away.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, appears all smiles before they zoom off the grid – but it is Ferrari that get a brilliant start, with Sebastian Vettel flying past Lewis Hamilton and taking the lead into the first corner. Charles Leclerc drops down to second. A dream start for Ferrari. Sainz is up to fourth. Meanwhile, a puncture for Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean is out.
We are a formation lap away from the off! …
Max Verstappen is in the mood for overtaking. “The faster the better, of course in a clean way, but after that we just have to do our own race and see how competitive we are against the cars ahead,” the Red Bull says. Valtteri Bottas says start on the medium tyres could help Mercedes get on to the podium. “It is a bit warmer than expected so hopefully Ferrari will struggle with the soft tyres.”
The sun is shining Sochi. It is around 22C, nearer 34C out on the track. Down on the grid, Christian Horner, the Red Bull chief, says: “We have got to get a good start. You can overtake here, the two DRS straights are powerful so were going to try and get on the back of the Ferraris and Mercedes as quick as we can.” As for a difficult weekend for Albon, who starts from the pits, he says: “Forget yesterday, today is a new day. I still think he can be top six by the end of the day.” Max Verstappen begins from ninth after a penalty.
This a landmark race for Räikkönen. This is his 307th race start, which lifts him up to third in the all-time standings, one ahead of Michael Schumacher and behind only Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello. The Alfa Romeo begins down in 15th in Sochi. “We’ve had meetings about next year and I think there are good things coming,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ll keep improving. We have a great group of people and we’re working well.”
1 Leclerc 2 Hamilton
3 Vettel 4 Bottas
5 Sainz 6 Hülkenberg
7 Norris 8 Grosjean
9 Verstappen 10 Ricciardo
11 Pérez 12 Giovinazzi
13 Magnussen 14 Stroll
15 Räikkönen 16 Gasly
17 Russell 18 Kubica
19 Kvyat 20 Albon*
*Albon will start from the pit lane owing to a change of floor
It is four poles on the bounce for Charles Leclerc. The last person to achieve that feat was Lewis Hamilton, who starts alongside the prodigious 21-year-old on the grid, three years ago. The last Ferrari to do so? Michael Schumacher, which is why it is impossible to ignore comparisons between the two. “I don’t want to think about those stats for now,” he said. But, on recent evidence, he is going to have to get used to it. Leclerc continues to push Sebastian Vettel, who started the season as Ferrari’s lead driver, into the shade, with this weekend in Sochi the ninth successive time he has outdone his team-mate in qualifying. As for Mercedes and Hamilton, who remains 65 points clear of Valtteri Bottas in the drivers’ championship, the task is clear. “I’ve got to figure a way to get by that Ferrari,” he said. I can’t do it on the straights. They have too many horses. It is going to have to be like a chess game and every move has to be perfect to have any window of opportunity to swing past.” Max Verstappen was fourth fastest but was slapped with a five-place grid penalty because of an engine change. His Red Bull team-mate, Alex Albon, faced the same sanction but his punishment was academic given he crashed into the barriers during Q1. Albon will start from the pit lane, while Red Bull have also changed bits and pieces in the engine and gearbox. Meanwhile Daniil Kvyat starts from 19th in front of a home crowd.
Lights out: 12.10pm (BST)
Source: Formula 1