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Team orders give Hamilton victory in Sochi

NEWS STORY
30/09/2018

OK, much as we hate these grid penalties, one must admit that they have gone some way to livening up a race that looked likely to be as dull as ditch-water.

The prospect of 'birthday' boy Max Verstappen starting from the back and attempting to carve his way through the field, along with teammate Daniel Ricciardo should be worth the price of admission alone.

Of course, one of the first obstacles they'll encounter will be Fernando Alonso, who is not known as the Samurai for nothing.

Then there are all those drivers who, courtesy of said grid penalties, find themselves at the very front of the grid, almost mixing it with the Ferraris and Mercedes.

As if the prospect of Magnussen, Ocon, Leclerc, Perez and Grosjean fighting for those all-important points wasn't enough, there is the fact that as the race goes on they will face additional opposition in the form of the Bulls.

Clearly lacking speed, Renault opted for the tactical decision not to run in Q2, thereby missing the cut and leaving the drivers free to start on the ultrasofts.

Of course, while we're salivating at the thought of all those various battles, let's not lose sight of the fact that the opening laps at Sochi have been known to produce the odd incident... or two.

Indeed, who will ever forget 2019 returnee Daniil Kvyat hitting Sebastian Vettel in two separate incidents a couple of years back.

Talking of Kvyat, Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley is one driver who needs a good result today. Asked yesterday what the Kiwi must do to keep his seat, Helmut Marko didn't mess around. "Beat Gasly," the Austrian replied.

While 15 of next year's 20 seats are now 'spoke for', there is still an opportunity for drivers to impress... or not.

Though Esteban Ocon appears set to watch from the sidelines next season, would Racing Point Force India tolerate another Singapore-style showing from Sergio Perez.

There's also the little matter of the Constructors' Championship, with today seeming a good opportunity for Haas to snatch back the initiative from Renault, and Sauber to leapfrog Toro Rosso.

Barring Ferrari having watched The Ten Commandments last night and having found the miracle that will help topple Mercedes, this is the German team's race to lose, and with Bottas and Hamilton looking so strong that seems highly unlikely.

While Vettel's claim that talk of Ferrari having the best car was a lie put about by Mercedes is widely regarded as sour grapes on the part of the German, the fact is that other than a few minor blips the Mercedes has remained the class of the field.

With no serious opposition, both Mercedes and Ferrari qualified on the more durable ultrasoft, while the remainder of the top ten were on hypers.

According to Pirelli, the quickest strategy on paper is a one-stopper, starting on ultrasofts for 15 laps, then softs to the end. Almost as quick is to start on hypersoft for 9 laps, then softs to the end. A two-stopper is also possible, but slower, whereby you start on hypersofts for 7 laps, then two 23-lap stints on soft. Or start on ultrasofts for 10 laps, then 21 laps on softs, and a final 22-lap stint on softs.

Worth noting, as one reflects on the previous sessions, this morning Charlie Whiting warned that the stewards will act on those drivers who exceed the track limits.

"If a driver cuts behind the apex of a corner, on the exit of turn 2 for example, but doesn't gain a place or a clear time advantage, no action is likely," he said. "A second occurrence will however result in a report being made to the stewards.

A report will also be made to the stewards immediately if any driver is suspected of deliberately cutting a corner in order to avoid being overtaken, this will be reported as a possible case of leaving the track without a justifiable reason."

So there, you've been warned.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. Following a little drizzle earlier, including a shower during the F2 race, it is a little cooler than on previous days, with talk of a further rain shower within the hour.

Ahead of the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 24.2 degrees C, while the track temperature is 25.4 degrees.

While the sun is shining, there is a very ominous dark cloud closing in.

Though he is starting from pole, Bottas will have been made fully aware of what is stake in terms of his teammate's title hopes. At the same time however, the Ferraris will be looking for the best possible start, hopefully with Raikkonen riding shotgun for his teammate.

Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Sirotkin, Stroll, Vandoorne and Alonso start on ultras, while Magnussen, Ocon, Leclerc, Perez, Grosjean, Ericsson and Hartley start on hypers. The rest, including both Renaults, start on softs.

As they head off on the warm-up lap, Vandoorne is warned of light spots of rain. Vettel is warned of light rain at T10.

All get away cleanly.

The grid slowly forms... very, very slowly, the noses on both Mercedes pointing towards the middle of the track.

They're away, and Vettel makes a great start, getting right alongside Hamilton as they pursue Bottas. At the back, Verstappen has also made a great start, slicing through the middle of the pack.

Hamilton and Vettel are side-by-side but the Briton has a tow from his teammate and edges ahead of the Ferrari on the run to T2.

In T2 Bottas hold his line, while Vettel is forced wide in order to avoid Hamilton. Throughout the field drivers appear to have a problem understanding track limits.

Bottas leads Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Leclerc, Ocon, Perez, Ericsson and Grosjean. Verstappen is up to 13th while Ricciardo remains 18th.

Lap 2 sees Leclerc and Magnussen side-by-side all around T3, the Sauber driver eventually getting ahead, even though he is on the outside.

Ocon closes in on Magnussen with Perez close behind.

Verstappen makes quick work of both Renaults, and up to 11th, after just 2 laps, he is hunting down tenth-placed Ericsson.

Going around the outside of the Sauber at T3, Verstappen nails Ericsson under braking for T4.

After 3 laps, Bottas leads his teammate by 1.491, the Finn posting a new fastest lap (38.849).

Verstappen makes short work of Grosjean, and sets about closing the 0.7s gap to Perez.

"You're obviously doing a very good job here Max," Verstappen is told, in what must be the understatement of the season.

Hartley pits at the end of lap and switches to softs following a spin, while Gasly appears to have had a clash with Vandoorne.

Sheesh! Verstappen despatches both Panthers and thereby moves up to seventh. Teammate Ricciardo is up to 12th.

Disaster for Toro Rosso, both cars are in the pits and have retired.

Alonso pits at the end of lap 5 and switches to the softs.

Magnussen can do absolutely nothing as Verstappen closes in and quickly passes, the Red Bull leaving the Haas for dead.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Sochi, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Frank H, 01/10/2018 19:30

"@Superbird70: Betting on Bottas beeing able to win is a huge gamble in it self, if the championship stands between Hamilton and Vettel. I would have been more surprised if Bottas would have been allowed to win than the other way round. (Just as I would have been if Kimi would have been allowed to win in front of Vettel)"

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2. Posted by Stitch431, 01/10/2018 15:41

"@imejl99 I said that from a teams point of view, it is understandable (meaning if I were a team boss and I know that I get away with it unpunished, I will do the same, as there is a huge amount of money involved). This does not mean that I approve of it. I certainly do not. That is why I went on to write: "From the sports point of view, this is a disaster and there is a governing body that could make a rule to prevent this kind of decisions to be taken. FIA shame on you!""

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3. Posted by imejl99, 01/10/2018 14:30

"@Stitch431,
it is understandable how we can define that it is "understandable from team point of view". We are almost all brain-washed into "understanding it".

But, transfer it to any other sport, imagine Usain Bolt let Asafa Powell overtake him at the Olympics, as it would be good for the team and country result. And now, imagine what would be said and done after that...
F1 is the only sport where result fixing is legal. And we all understand it."

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4. Posted by Stitch431, 01/10/2018 13:33

"From the team's point of view, this is understandable. From the sports point of view, this is a disaster and there is a governing body that could make a rule to prevent this kind of decisions to be taken. FIA shame on you! "

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 01/10/2018 9:11

"@Mig
Hardly "handed" the victory. He had to fight-off Vettel at the start, then overtake him after a screwed-up pit-stop call. Vettel, tried another of his trademark kamikaze blocking maneuvers. Hamilton's reactions avoided that, then he pulled-off the move of the race to overtake.

More generally, of course Bottas wasn't very happy, but he doesn't drive in the 'best' Formula to make him happy. David Coulthard had it spot on when he observed that both Hamilton & Bottas work for Mercedes and are handsomely paid for it. Ultimately they do what the boss tells them to. If they don't like that, they know where the door is.

Hamilton's performances this year have put him in a position to win the Championship, Bottas' have not. Were they within a few points of one-another I doubt the order would have been given, Rosberg was always given leave to fight when that was the case between them.

"

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6. Posted by imejl99, 01/10/2018 7:23

"Checo you have 2 laps... Checo you have 1 lap... Checo if not within DRS... it is all over the grid. Good luck with that betting deal if team orders stays legal.

Are there the odds for ISG vs Liberty/FIA on team orders ban? I would like to place a bet :)"

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7. Posted by Lapps, 30/09/2018 21:34

"If a Stable did the same in a horse-race someone would go to prison. So why is it ok in F1?"

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8. Posted by klmn, 30/09/2018 19:30

"Vettel should have been punished for that very dangerous move on Lewis . If another driver did this there would be a penalty. Again Vettel got this "Ferrari advantage " Bad for F1"

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9. Posted by *TestaRossa*, 30/09/2018 17:45

"Kimi and Bottas are just wingmen. It means slave. Like Massa was and Barichello before. In history only Pironi refused to obey"

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10. Posted by Kkiirmki, 30/09/2018 17:11

"Superbird70 has a point; wouldn't manipulating the result of a race be seen as match fixing?"

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11. Posted by Racer76, 30/09/2018 15:27

"It was a shame. Just like Austria in 2002 (or was it 2001?). Shame on you Mercedes. You know how to ruin a "sport". I think there's a reason why nobody was celebrating. But there will be a riposte. Just like Rubens got it on Schuhmacher"

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12. Posted by Mig, 30/09/2018 14:57

"It's nice being handed victories isn't it!
"

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13. Posted by Superbird70, 30/09/2018 14:10

"So I had $100 on Bottas to win, so I should still get my money because everyone agrees that Hamilton really didn't win?!? I love betting on F1"

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