Mercedes maintained its perfect record at the Russian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton taking the team’ sixth win in Sochi overall and his fourth ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Ferrari’s challenge was undone by a DNF for Sebastian Vettel and a safety car period that dropped Charles Leclerc to third place at the flag.
At the start of the race Vettel made a superb start form third on the grid and was past front-row starter Hamilton before they reached Turn 1. Vettel then got a tow from pole-sitting team-mate Leclerc and stole the lead through Turn 2.
Further back, though, there was a collision involving Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. The incident resulted in Grosjean exiting the race, while both Ricciardo and Giovinazzi required pit stops for repairs.
The collision brought out the Safety Car and under the caution Vettel led Leclerc with Hamilton in third place ahead of Carlos Sainz who had passed Bottas at the start.
When the Safety Car left the track Vettel held his advantage over his team-mate, a situation that appeared to cause some friction, as Leclerc had apparently expected the German to allow him to retake the lead after affording Vettel a tow after the start. Leclerc was eventually told that the pass would take place later in the race, information that seemed to mollify the fiery Ferrari youngster.
Leclerc was the first of the leading pack to pit, with the Monegasque driver stopping for medium tyres on lap 22. He rejoined in fourth place behind Bottas (who had earlier got back past Sainz) and then began to set fastest laps.
Despite complaining of fading rear tyres Vettel stayed out until lap 26 and when he finally dived into the pits to take on medium tyres the lead changed hands as promised, with Leclerc flying past to take the lead.
Vettel’s time in action after his stop was brief. By the time he reached Turn 15 of his first lap out from the pits his Ferrari had given up and an engine issue saw him pull over at the side of the track.
That brought out the Virtual Safety Car and then when Williams’ George Russell crashed out under the caution, the physical SC was deployed.
When the order shook out, Mercedes had profited hugely. The free stop and pace under the VSC allowed both Hamilton and Bottas to jump ahead of Leclerc, with Hamilton now leading. Leclerc was now third ahead of Max Verstappen who had climbed from ninth on the grid. Sainz was fifth ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll and the second Red Bull of Alex Albon who had made it into the points after a pit lane start.
Albon then began an impressive march forward, starting after the re-start when he passed Stroll and Pérez on in the space of two laps before bypassing Norris on lap 34 to to claim P7.
Albon then began to hunt down Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and at the end of lap 42 he launched a late-braking attack into Turn 13 that worked perfectly. With P6 claimed he next set off after Sainz who was on the medium tyre.
And the Thai racer capped a brilliant afternoon with an equally brilliant move past Sainz at the start of lap 49. He pulled alongside the Spaniard on the sweep through Turn 3 and then powered past on the entry to the next corner to seal fifth place.
And that was how the order remained until the chequered flag. Leclerc pushed hard to get past Bottas, but the Finn resisted the pressure and after 53 laps Hamilton crossed the line to take his ninth win of the season and the bonus point for posting the fastest lap on lap 51. Bottas was second ahead of Leclerc while Verstappen and Albon took fourth and fifth places respectively.
Sainz took sixth place for McLaren ahead of Pérez. Norris added to a positive result for McLaren with eighth place, while Magnussen managed to hold on to P9 despite incurring a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage earlier in the race. The final point on offer went to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
2012 FIA Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1:33’38.992
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 1:33’42.821 3.829
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 1:33’44.204 5.212
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 53 1:33’53.202 14.210
5 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 53 1:34’17.340 38.348
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 53 1:34’24.881 45.889
7 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 53 1:34’27.720 48.728
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 53 1:34’36.741 57.749
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 53 1:34’37.771 58.779
10 Nico Hülkenberg Renault 53 1:34’38.833 59.841
11 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 53 1:34’39.813 1:00.821
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 53 1:34’41.488 1:02.496
13 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 53 1:34’47.902 1:08.910
14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 53 1:34’49.068 1:10.076
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 53 1:34’52.338 1:13.346
Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 28 51:42.308
George Russell Williams/Mercedes 27 48’58.002
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26 45’29.330
Daniel Ricciardo Renault 24 43’41.568
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 0