Bottas wins Russian GP
SOCHI, Russia (AP):
Lewis Hamilton’s toughest opponents in the Russian Grand Prix weren’t even on the track. They were in the stewards’ office.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas cruised to the win yesterday after Hamilton, who was leading, was penalised 10 seconds for practising his starts in the wrong place before the race.
Hamilton came into the race looking to match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins in Formula One but had to settle for third behind Bottas and Max Verstappen. Bottas built a sizeable lead over Verstappen with ease and eased to his first win since the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was already under investigation by the stewards when he started the race from pole position. Before the race he twice stopped to perform practice starts at the exit of the pit lane, rather than in the designated area. That eventually earned him two five-second penalties, dropping him as low as 11th at one stage.
Hamilton said he and Mercedes were under “a lot of scrutiny” from officials and that it sometimes felt as if that they were being targeted by the stewards “to keep the racing exciting” because of their dominant position in the championship.
“It feels like we’re fighting uphill. But it’s OK. It’s not like I haven’t faced adversity before. So we just keep our heads down and keep fighting and keep trying to do a better job and be cleaner and squeaky clean,” he said.
Hamilton had asked Mercedes over the radio if he could perform the starts at the pit exit, and was told he could. He later said he had been doing similar practice starts “for years”, though not in Sochi. The designated zone had too much rubber left from other drivers’ tyres and was “not representative of what it’s like on the grid”, he said.
It was the second time in three races that a miscommunication with Mercedes cost the British driver a shot at victory. Hamilton was leading at the Italian Grand Prix when he was given a penalty for entering the pit lane while it was closed, after a radio message from the team warning him was sent too late.
Hamilton’s championship lead over Bottas was cut to a still-healthy 44 points with seven scheduled races remaining on a calendar heavily modified because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bottas, who also claimed the bonus point for fastest lap, said he wanted to “thank my critics” after ending a run of eight races without a win despite having, with Hamilton, by far the fastest car.
“There’s been people telling me that, you know, I should not bother and I should give up. But you know how I am. I will never do that,” he said.
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 26
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 18
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 15
4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) 12
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 10
6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 8
7. Esteban Ocon (Renault) 6
8. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) 4
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 2
10. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 1
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 205
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 161
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 128
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 65
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 64
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 63
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 57
8. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) 57
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) 56
10. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 45
1. Mercedes 366
2. Red Bull 192
3. McLaren 106
4. Racing Point 104
5. Renault 99
6. Ferrari 74
7. AlphaTauri 59
8. Alfa Romeo 4
9. Haas 1
10. Williams 0