Russian GP Race Review

Lewis Hamilton is victorious and extends his championship advantage as teammate Nico Rosberg suffers early retirement due to a mechanical issue with his throttle. Moreover, Rosberg drops to third place in the championship standings behind Sebastian Vettel, who delivered another superb result for Ferrari this weekend. Mercedes seems to have been plagued with reliability issues after only one driver has seen the checkered flag in three of the last four races. In Monza, Rosberg blew an old and stressed engine late in the race while in Singapore, Hamilton had a power-related problem. After his teammate’s unfortunate end to his race, Hamilton stood as the lone Mercedes driver on the podium, along with Vettel and Force India’s Sergio Perez. 

Vettel snatched P2 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas midway through the race thanks to superior pit strategy by the Scuderia. The pit crew serviced Vettel with a lightning-quick stop a few laps after Bottas’s own pit stop, putting the German driver ahead of the Finn by a large gap coming out of pit lane. Williams again lost out to Ferrari in terms of pit strategy despite the evident power advantage Bottas had over a straight line.

Romain Grosjean of Lotus suffered a violent accident at Turn 3, losing control of his car in the high-speed left-hander and spinning into the barriers with a massive impact. From the television shots, Grosjean might have lost front-end downforce due to the turbulent air left behind by Jenson Button’s McLaren, whom he was following not far back. Thankfully, the Frenchman got out of his car and walked away unaided, with a further checkup at the medical facility revealing no injuries. The safety car was deployed and the Tecpro barriers needed extensive repair work but was dealt with quickly by the marshals, quelling the threat of a red flag.

It was at this time that Perez and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took advantage to make their respective one-and-only pit stops. After all the front runners made their pit stops, Perez and Ricciardo held position at P3 and P4 respectively but with Bottas and Raikkonen closely charging behind. Late into the race, Ricciardo appeared to have a brake problem, allowing his two closest pursuers to easily pass him. Eventually, he reported an apparent suspension issue and parked his car to the side of the track to retire.

With Hamilton and Vettel comfortably established at the head of the field, the last few laps of the race featured a tense battle for third place between Perez, Bottas, and Raikkonen. On the penultimate lap, Perez dropped two positions after Bottas and Raikkonen overtook him within the space of two corners. A few seconds later, the two Finns would tangle going into Turn 4 for the final lap, gifting third place back to Perez. Raikkonen followed Bottas around Turn 3 and attempted, from quite a distance back, a dive down the inside going into Turn 4 and couldn’t slow his car down enough, hitting the Williams’ rear-right and sending it to the wall. Bottas’s teammate Felipe Massa took P4 while Raikkonen limped his damaged Ferrari to cross the finish line at fifth place however, he was handed a 30-second time penalty added to his overall race time, which brought him down to P8.

It was a jubilant result for Force India with Perez back on the podium for the first time since Bahrain in 2014. Perez continued his consistent campaign by driving a gritty race, making his tires last for almost 40 laps in this race and maintained composure under pressure, similar to his other performances this season. It’s great that the Mexican is retained by Force India for next year, as I expect the team to be more competitive and to continue challenging for podium finishes like in today’s race. Perez and Hulkenberg are two talented young drivers and if Force India can field a continuously improving package for them, they could be strong players moving towards the front end of the field next season.

With Raikkonen’s demotion, Mercedes has officially clinched the Constructors’ World Championship for the second consecutive year.

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