On recent form alone Ferrari should have won the 2019 Russian Grand Prix. The last four races have demonstrated that Ferrari has unlocked the full untapped force of the SF70. The dominance Mercedes enjoyed in the first half of the season has ended. But there is one man who is always willing to put up a fight in the face of insurmountable odds and that man is Lewis Hamilton. He managed to haul his Mercedes to second during qualifying. Separating an expected Ferrari front-row lockout. And on Sunday the power advantage enjoyed by Ferrari was expected to overwhelm the Mercedes team.
And so it did. Initially. The Ferraris powered off the line, pole-sitter Charles Leclerc got an excellent start, so to did teammate Sebastian Vettel. Vettel took advantage of the long straight leading up to the first corner to slipstream past Leclerc and take the lead. However, Ferrari had discussed a pre-race agreement that apparently stipulated Vettel should give first place back to Leclerc if such a moment occurred. The agreement was designed to fend off the potential threat posed by Hamilton.
Vettel Ignores Team Orders
You cannot expect a four-time world champion to yield to a younger team teammate. Pride always comes before ambition. Vettel did not stick to the terms of the agreement, indeed he had the quicker race pace. Leclerc struggled to keep up and soon fell back by a few seconds. He easily maintained a gap to Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton was able to keep in sight of the Ferraris ahead of him but it looked like an impossible task to win the race
After 23 laps Leclerc pitted first, Ferrari decided to pit Sebastian Vettel 4 laps later which meant Leclerc used the undercut to leapfrog into the lead. But only just. However, Vettel’s race was over just a few corners later as the energy recovery system in his car failed and he rolled to a stop. This brought out a Virtual Safety Car (VSC). At this stage of the race, Hamilton was leading (Mercedes decided to leave Hamilton out for 15 extra laps). Under the VSC Hamilton pitted to change from medium to soft tyres.
Hamilton effectively had a free-pitstop meaning he retained a comfortable lead over Leclerc. Another safety car period later closed up the field and Ferrari decided to pit Leclerc for a fresh set of soft tyres with 20 laps to go. But this dropped him to third and promoted Bottas to second.
However, Leclerc did not show enough of a speed advantage to nip past Bottas, eventually, his challenge faded and he settled for third. Mercedes finished 1-2 when it was expecting just a solitary podium at best. Hamilton extends his lead in the driver’s championship to 75 points with five races remaining.
2019 Russian Grand Prix Results: Sochi Autodrom, Sochi
|4||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||53||+14.210s||12|
|5||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||53||+38.348s||10|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||53||+45.889s||8|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||53||+48.728s||6|
|8||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||53||+57.749s||4|
|9||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||53||+58.779s||2|
|11||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||53||+60.821s||0|
|12||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||53||+62.496s||0|
|13||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||53||+68.910s||0|
|14||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||53||+70.076s||0|
|15||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||53||+73.346s||0|
|NC||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||28||DNF||0|
|NC||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||27||DNF||0|
|NC||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||0||DNF||0|
Note – Magnussen received a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.