In Summary
  • He was followed by Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen then Albon.
  • The fifth place finish by Albon means that he has now finished in the top six in all four of his starts for Red Bull. Off to Suzuka, Japan next with Ferrari having the arduous homework of putting its house in order to quell the manifest disunity.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday without needing to overtake the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc even though both were comfortably ahead of him for the first part of the race.

Ferrari will live to rue how they handled the team’s dynamics at Sochi ceding the winner’s and runner’s up positions which they were well equipped to fight for.

It was Leclerc yet again who delivered when it mattered on Saturday, out-qualifying his team-mate and everyone else to set pole for the fourth time consecutively.

Such was the Monegasque’s dominance that he was four tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton, the Brit having just pipped Vettel by 0.023 of a second to split the dominant Ferraris.

Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, for whom Sochi is a favourite track, did not have the weekend going his way as he was only able to qualify in fifth position (which became fourth on the grid because of a five-place grid penalty for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who had qualified fourth), the Finn unable to replicate the form that saw him on pole at the same track last year.

Hamilton had already indicated his intention to attempt a pass on Leclerc soon at the start by taking advantage of the Ferrari’s slipstream.

Vettel was not about to let that happen and immediately after the start, he blocked Hamilton from coming left behind Leclerc and then proceeded to overtake his teammate on the inside by the time they got to Turn Two.

Hamilton was momentarily overtaken by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz but he was able to brake late into the inside of Turn Two to stay in third position.

A Safety Car was deployed when the Haas of Romain Grosjean, the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo and the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi collided sending Grosjean spinning out into the barriers.

It didn’t take long for the race to resume and for Ferrari to launch into a team dynamics ‘circus’. Leclerc expressed his displeasure at having Vettel in front of him.

On the sixth lap, he was told that the German would let him through in the next lap. Vettel, however, became stubborn and seemed intent on having his team-mate fight to regain the lead.

Although the Ferrari crew was happy that their cars were leading in Russia, tension was building between the drivers and the team. On the 22nd lap, Leclerc, running second, was pitted first among the lead cars. A 2.5 second pit stop saw him rejoin in fourth position, ahead of Verstappen.

Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, meanwhile, was making his way up from last position because he started from the pit lane.

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