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Latest News
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Valtteri VICTOR Bottas

Jolyon Palmer was the news of practice in Russia, with an engine problem preventing him getting anywhere near the laps in prior to qualifying.

Sainz had a 3-place penalty after colliding with Stroll in Bahrain, while Vandoorne lost 15 places for a new MGU-H and turbocharger exceeding the limit of 4 of each of the 6 components in a season. The fact this was happening at only the 4th race did not bode well for McLaren.

The first mistake in qualifying, surprisingly, was by Lewis Hamilton, dropping the car and running wide, forcing him to abort his lap while teammate Bottas set the pace.

Palmer and Wehrlein both spun on their last Q1 laps, the Renault hitting the wall head-on and the Sauber avoiding the barriers but wasting the final lap.

Palmer, Vandoorne, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Grosjean all fell, the last few laps from the drivers further up the order unable to go faster due to yellow flags.

Q2 was a more orderly affair, Alonso slowest behind Magnussen, Kvyat, Stroll and 11th-placed Sainz.

Hamilton had a scrap with Hulkenberg at the start of Q3, complaining the Renault driver was driving “dangerously” before going 12 seconds slower than the Renault on their respective first timed laps, following a pattern from all 3 sessions that really should have told Hamilton to move aside a lot earlier.

Ocon continued his love affair with 10th in Q3, although that was his best qualifying to date. Vettel stole pole from Raikkonen, Bottas taking 3rd before Hamilton went through to take only 4th. Ricciardo and Verstappen were split by Massa, Hulkenberg then ahead of the row 5 lockout for Force India.

Verstappen was lucky not to have an engine change on Sunday morning, with a water leak proving elusive for a while.

Everyone started the race on ultra-soft tyres, with the exception of the Saubers and Vandoorne who opted for super-softs instead. From the back of the grid with a pace deficit, the alternative strategy had to be worth a shot.

Alonso made it to the pit entry on the formation lap before parking the McLaren, forcing an aborted start.

Bottas led from Bettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Massa, Ricciardo, Perez, Ocon and Hulkenberg. Ericsson and Vandoorne switched to ultras under the Safety Car, brought out after Palmer ploughed into Grosjean at turn 2. Stroll was running 17th after a spin that appeared unforced, although Hulkenberg was put under investigation for contact. No further action was taken, while Grosjean/Palmer was investigated after the race.

Lap 4 saw the Safety Car pull off and promptly Ricciardo's brakes catching fire, forcing the Red Bull to retire.

Magnussen received a 5-second penalty for breaching the track limits at turn 2. Vandoorne received the same penalty, both presumably for the first lap.

Hamilton reported “sensations”, the team telling him to maximise cooling for an intermittent fault.

Wehrlein was the first driver to pit under racing conditions, taking ultra-soft tyres and probably not aiming to run to the flag from lap 21.

Massa, Magnussen and Kvyat all pitted on lap 22, all taking on super-soft tyres. Ericsson also took his second stop.

Lap 27 saw Bottas become the first front-runner to pit, taking super-soft tyres and releasing Vettel into the lead. The Finn rejoined behind Hamilton, but far enough back that there was no risk of the two interfering with each other. Perez followed him in, Ocon having stopped the lap before.

Raikkonen, oddly, was the first Ferrari into the pits on lap 29. Verstappen chose the same time to stop. Hamilton pitted a lap later, a lick of flame from the left front brakes apparently not a problem for the Mercedes. Vettel in the lead was being told his laps were still fast enough not to pit, although he was called in on lap 34, dropping back to 2nd ahead of Raikkonen.

Bottas gave himself a pair of flat spots, losing a huge chunk of time to Vettel as a result. Further back Sainz was told to keep off the kerbs due to “something strange” at the rear.

Hulkenberg pitted on his 40th lap, rejoining 9th behind the Force India pair. Massa stopped a couple of laps later, dropping in turn behind the Renault. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, he had a slow puncture which forced that stop.

Bottas led to the flag, Vettel compromised by lapping Massa on the final lap and finding himself unable to prevent Bottas winning his first F1 race. Raikkonen took 3rd from Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Massa and Sainz. Stroll led the non-scorers ahead of Kvyat, Magnussen, Vandoorne and the Sauber pair. Ricciardo, Alonso, Palmer and Grosjean was the order of the retirees, if not the actual retirements.

Bottas taking his first win in commanding fashion was undoubtedly the story of the day, but credit was also due to Verstappen and Red Bull for getting car number 33 to the flag – and even the grid, really. Similarly Vandoorne managed to drag the remaining McLaren home, albeit not in the points.

 

Tufty


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