Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix, as fortune favoured him and Ferrari floundered.
The world champion moved closer to winning a sixth world title – 73 points clear of nearest challenger and team-mate Valtteri Bottas with 130 remaining – after a virtual safety car was brought out after Sebastian Vettel’s red car stopped with engine failure. Hamilton had not pitted by this point and used the break in racing to go in for a ‘free’ stop.
The Briton emerged in the lead, having spent the first half of the race running third behind the two Ferraris. ‘The Ferraris are behind us?’ he asked in disbelief as his world turned the right way up. Up until then a Ferrari one-two looked assured. But the afternoon ended with the Mercedes in on the high steps of the podium, with Bottas second and Charles Leclerc, the pole man who spent a dispiriting afternoon railing at his pit wall, third.
He might have finished runner-up but he was brought in for a second – seemingly ill-advised – second stop when the safety car came out for George Russell’s Williams hitting the barriers. As it is, Leclerc is 107 points off Hamilton, whose ninth win of the season this was. The winner also set the fastest lap.
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS AND STANDINGS RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX RESULT
1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 33min 38.992secs
2. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +3.829s
3. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari +5.212s
4. Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull +14.210s
5. Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull +38.348s
6. Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren +45.889s
7. Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point +48.728s
8. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren +57.749s
9. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas +58.779s
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault +59.841s
11. Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point +60.821s
12. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso +62.496s
13. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo +68.910s
14. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso +70.076s
15. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo +73.346s Not classified: Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams (28 laps),
George Russell (Gbr) Williams (27 laps),
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari (26 laps),
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault (24 laps),
Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas (0 laps)
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton 1:35.761
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Lewis Hamilton – 322
2. Valtteri Bottas – 249
3. Charles Leclerc – 215
4. Max Verstappen – 212
5. Sebastian Vettel – 194
6. Pierre Gasly – 69
7. Carlos Sainz – 66
8. Alexander Albon – 52
9. Lando Norris – 35
10. Daniel Ricciardo – 34
11. Nico Hulkenberg – 34
12. Daniil Kvyat – 33
13. Sergio Perez – 33
14. Kimi Raikkonen – 31
15. Kevin Magnussen – 20
16. Lance Stroll – 19
17. Romain Grosjean – 8
18. Antonio Giovinazzi – 4
19. Robert Kubica – 1 20. George Russell – 0
Leclerc’s race had started badly when he was passed by Vettel within seconds of the lights going out. It seems Ferrari had told their drivers not to contest the first two corners and so informed Leclerc that they would instruct Vettel to let him back in front. ‘Let Charles by,’ Vettel was told.
‘He’ll have to close up,’ came the response, Vettel resisting. Leclerc was then moved on to ‘Plan C’ – undercutting Vettel. Leclerc, on new rubber, banged in a succession of fastest laps and duly found himself in the lead when Vettel later emerged from his pit stop. But then Vettel’s engine went kaput.
The German jumped out of the car after a few expletives criticising the hybrid engine – for it was a hybrid problem that had befallen him – and ran back to the paddock, his mood as black as night.