SOCHI: Valtteri Bottas won the Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes yesterday after team mate and Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton picked up time penalties for infringements before the race had even started.
Hamilton, who had started on pole position in Sochi hoping for a 91st victory to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record, finished third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
He accused stewards of trying to stop him winning and said the “ridiculous” sanctions were excessive but to be expected: “They’re trying to stop me, aren’t they?” the Briton said.
His lead over Bottas shrunk to a still healthy 44 points after 10 of 17 races, with the Finn collecting a bonus point for fastest lap. “Never give up. It’s a good day,” said Bottas, who addressed his critics in more basic terms over the team radio as he took the chequered flag.
The win – by 7.729 seconds – was the Finn’s second of the season, and first since the Austrian opener in July.
Hamilton’s hopes were in any case dashed when stewards issued two five-second penalties for making practice starts outside the designated area as he headed to the grid.
“I’m pretty sure no-one’s got two five second penalties for something so ridiculous before,” said the Briton, who had won six of the nine races before Sochi and had been authorised by the team to practise a start.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger. I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned on it.”
Hamilton also collected two penalty points on his licence. However, the stewards later rescinded the penalties.
Instead, Mercedes have been fined 25,000 euros on the basis the team gave the instruction not to do the practice start in the designated place. The two penalty points had moved Hamilton to within two away from a one-race ban triggered if a driver gets 12 in a 12-month period.
Mercedes continued their record of winning every Russian Grand Prix since the first held on the streets around the 2014 Winter Olympics venue.
Mexican Sergio Perez was fourth for Racing Point with Australian Daniel Ricciardo fifth for Renault and Charles Leclerc sixth for Ferrari.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon took seventh for Renault with Russian driver Daniil Kvyat eighth and pleasing the first real crowd of the season after the first eight races were held behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly, a surprise winner at Monza, was ninth and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon took the final point in 10th.