MERCEDES’ Valterri Bottas comfortably won the Russian Grand Prix but his teammate and world champion Lewis Hamilton would feel that the race stewards took away what would have been his record-equalling 91st victory.
Bottas stormed past Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and briefly troubled leader Hamilton, before leading the rest of the way and taking the chequered flag for his second win of the season.
Hamilton led the race at Sochi when the stewards dropped a bombshell and docked him 10 seconds for violating the practice start rule twice. The penalty denied Hamilton an opportunity to equal the legendary Michael Schumacher’s 91 race victories. He would make his way through the field and claim his 159th podium in a deserved third.
After the race, Hamilton said the 10 seconds penalty was unprecedented and ridiculous. He said the stewards were trying to stop him from winning but pledged to keep his head down and focus.
“I’m pretty sure no one has got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before,” Hamilton said, who also picked up two penalty points on the FIA super licence, leaving him an incident away from a race ban.
However, in a dramtatic turn of events hours after the race, the FIA stewards changed their decision and removed the penalty points given to Hamilton, replacing them with a €25,000 fine for Mercedes instead. The stewards said they had made a U-turn after they discovered that Hamilton had a team instruction to perform the practice start in the incorrect place.
Racing Point experienced a mixed bag of results with Sergio Perez coming home in fourth, despite a five-second penalty early in the race, and teammate Lance Stroll crashing out in lap 1. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo had a great drive to finish a cool fifth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and teammate Esteban Ocon.
Hometown hero Daniil Kyvat finished in eighth, with fellow AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly finishing in ninth after a late stop. Gasly’s late pit-stop lunged him into battle with Red Bull’s Alex Albon and Mclaren’s Lando Norris, with the Frenchman coming up best.
Mclaren had a chaotic race as Spanish driver Carlos Sainz crashed into the barrier in lap one attempting to rejoin the track. His teammate, Norris, was caught in the on-track debris which forced him into an early pit, leaving him wondering last in 18th. Norris would however make a tenacious run through the field. He lost places in the end through a late pit-stop and came home in 15th.