English driver Lewis Hamilton bags 25 crucial points in Russia to take a giant step towards a fifth world title by extending his lead over rival, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel by 50 points in the championship race.
In what was quite a controversial win for Hamilton at the Sochi Autodrom, both of Mercedes’ drivers managed a 1-2 finish as fellow Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas came in second, courtesy of team orders by Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles, who instructed the Finn to give up his acquired lead and let his teammate pass him by in the 25th lap of the race. Vowles explained that Hamilton was struggling with his tires which were developing small blisters and that Mercedes couldn’t take any risks with Vettel being right behind Hamilton.
Prior to the ‘controversial lap’, birthday boy and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was already leading then P2 Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel in that order despite having started the race in the 19th place at the back of the grid following a grid penalty incurred by Red Bull for using Renault’s new version of spec-B engine instead of the spec-C engine which were used in the recent races. Verstappen, who turned 21 on race day, drove a brilliant race having started on the hardest tyres, and was in the fifth place after nine laps and soon inherited the lead after the Mercedes and Ferraris in front of him pitted and, when in the 43rd lap he himself did, Hamilton led Bottas and Vettel to the sight of the checkered flag after 53 laps. Second Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen managed a fourth-place finish and the German followed him in fifth, with fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo coming in at sixth.
On the other hand, both Toro Rosso drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, who were also suffering grid penalties due to power unit upgrades prior to the race, succumbed to a failure in the braking systems of both the cars and were forced into an untimely retirement in the 6th lap itself.
Watch the highlights of the race below.