Hamilton wins in Russia to foil Ferrari renaissance
Lewis Hamilton claimed his first win in four races on Sunday when he rode his luck to end Ferrari’s winning streak with a well-judged strategic victory for Mercedes in a roller-coaster Russian Grand Prix.
The defending five-time champion came home 3.829 seconds ahead of his team-mate and nearest championship rival Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes took full advantage of Ferrari’s reliability and tactical problems by delivering a solid Silver Arrows one-two.
Sebastian Vettel, who led from lap one, suffered a mechanical failure and retired after leading, gifting Mercedes a chance to extend their Sochi supremacy to six wins in succession.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc came home a frustrated third after starting from pole and losing his advantage to Vettel on the opening lap in a race punctuated by two Safety Car interventions and one use of the Virtual Safety Car.
Hamilton’s win was his first since the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 4, his ninth in 16 outings this year and the 82nd of his career, lifting him 73 points clear at the top of the drivers’ title race.
He scored an additional point for fastest lap.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished fourth, having started ninth, ahead of team-mate Alex Albon, who had started from the pit lane.
Carlos Sainz was sixth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez of Racing Point, Kevin Magnussen of Haas, Lando Norris in the second McLaren and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Vettel, who ignored Ferrari team orders after snatching the lead on the opening lap, was forced to retire after 28 with a power failure.
“That’s exactly what we needed,” exclaimed a delighted Hamilton on team radio following a flawless strategic performance by Mercedes.
“It was an incredible job by all the team – not giving up. Keeping up with Ferrari was a hard task, but we kept pushing.”
Bottas said his second was a credit to the team’s belief.”Starting fourth and finishing second is not bad, is it?” he said. “So, it’s not so bad…”
Leclerc remained poised, despite his disappointment.”At least we are consistent,” he said.
“It’s a shame for the team not to have both of us up here… I will always trust the team, but our tactic
was for me to give the slipstream, which I did – and then, well I need to speak to the team about that.”