Round 10 of the F1 season took place at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia. Hamilton took pole position but was given two 5-second time penalties for practice start infringements which cost him the race.
Free practice on Friday had some dramatic moments with Sainz and Latifi crashing as the track was dirty from lack of racing this year.
More drama came in Q2 only minutes from the end of the session when Vettel’s crash brought out a red flag. Hamilton had yet to set a lap time. On the restart, he crossed the line to start his flying lap with less than one second on the clock. He drove a smooth lap and claimed pole position. Verstappen took second and Bottas claimed 3rd.
On the way to the grid, Hamilton was told that it was okay to complete his practice starts outside of the designated area. The stewards decided to award his a 5-second time penalty for each incident, totalling 10-seconds, a big hit for a one-stop strategy race.
Hamilton started well, and Bottas did even better, taking 2nd position from Verstappen before turn 1. Turn 2 is the main overtaking opportunity at this circuit and this caused chaos. The stewards ruled that if a car ran behind the sausage kerb, then they must weave around the bollards. 4 cars did this on lap 1 but Sainz takes the chicane too fast and hits the wall, spinning him across the track and firing debris everywhere; so much that his teammate, Norris, had to slow to avoid. At turn 4, Leclerc nudged Stroll resulting in Stroll spinning into the wall. The safety car was called out. Albon, Norris and Russell pitted having run over lots of debris.
The Renaults had done well to climb to 4th and 5th and the Haas had outdone themselves, driving in 9th and 10th having qualified 16th and 18th.
The safety car came in on lap 6.
Norris, Albon and Russell battled at the back of the pack for quite a few laps until Russell locked up and ruined his tyres. The battle here was intense to watch but all three drivers raced respectfully.
Ricciardo made the first scheduled pit stop on lap 16 and Hamilton followed on lap 17 after some heated debate with his team. He served his penalty during this stop so emerged 11th, importantly ahead of Ricciardo.
Bottas and Verstappen pitted on lap 26 and maintained their 1st and 2nd positions respectively.
On lap 26, Ocon was asked to move over and allowed teammate Ricciardo past as he hadn’t managed to overtake Vettel. Ricciardo passed Ocon at turn 2 but ran behind that kerb after locking up. He was later given a 5-second time penalty for re-joining the track incorrectly.
“Okay, I’ll drive faster…that’s my bad. I’ll make up for it.”
This attitude from Ricciardo makes me like him even more. Hamilton on the other hand is an unbelievable driver but his immediate reaction to his penalties was “where’s that in the rule book?”
Kvyat was running 3rd until he pitted on lap 31 and emerged behind Ocon in 8th, meaning Hamilton was then 3rd.
On lap 42, Grosjean battled with Vettel and had to take the bollard chicane at turn 2. He carried a lot of speed and smashed through the foam bollards, bringing out a quick virtual safety car while marshals replaced the bollards. Gasly pits, obviously expecting the VSC period to last longer than the few seconds it did, and emerged 11th behind Albon.
Albon in 10th and Norris in 9th battled for those final points positions, allowing Gasly to catch the pair and overtake the both of them. Albon got past Norris who pitted due to a lock-up.
Gasly, Russell, Verstappen and Bottas all drove furiously for fastest lap but Bottas reigned supreme as he crossed the line to win.
Verstappen split the Mercedes to take 2nd. Perez takes 4th and Ricciardo is 5th. Leclerc drove cleanly, except his bump with Stroll on lap 1, to take 6th. Ocon placed 7th, Kvyat and Gasly took 8th and 9th, a good result for AlphaTauri. Albon received a 5-second time penalty for not re-joining the track correctly at turn 2 but this did not affect his race result, finishing 10th.
The stewards were hot on their penalty giving this weekend, with Hamilton’s practice start infringements and Ricciardo and Albon’s wrongful track re-joining. This decision ultimately cost Hamilton the win as the penalty had to be served during his pit stop, not added to his overall race time, meaning he emerged into the mid-field and had to battle his way up. For a sport where pit stops take less than 2 seconds, waiting for 10 seconds must feel like an eternity.
Holly’s driver of the day…and loser
Ricciardo is my driver of the day. He qualified 5th and managed to gain positions early in the race. He didn’t let his penalty affect him and finished 5th collecting 10 points. I should also note Magnussen’s excellent race start, gaining 9 places on the opening lap.
Norris is unfortunately my loser of the day. He lost a lot of positions at the start of the race to avoid colliding with his teammate and although he battled well with Albon, Russell and Gasly he came off worse, locking up and having to pit again. He finished 15th, a pointless race for McLaren.