HAMILTON WINS RUSSIA F1 AS FERRARI STRATEGY CAUSES SPARKS
In a hot day at the Sochi Autodrom, the Mercedes team of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas used the misfortune of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari engine failure to make it a 1-2 at the 2019 Russian F1 Grand Prix.
With Charles Leclerc on pole and Sebastien Vettel in P3, Ferrari's strategy off the line was to let Vettel slipstream his teammate and leapfrog Lewis Hamilton who was second on the grid.
As it turns out, the plan worked, and Vettel found himself in front of both Hamilton and his teammate in the second corner. Soon, though, it became clear that the deal was to return the favour and allow Leclerc passed, but the youngster from Monaco was too far behind and the plan was abandoned with Ferrari in P1 and P2.
The two Mercedes drivers had slow starts, with Hamilton dropping to third and Valterri Bottas to fourth from P3 before reclaiming his position shortly thereafter.
This is how the positions remained until Leclerc pitted for a set of fresh rubber. He then posted a sequence of fastest laps which helped him back into first when Vettel stopped. Disaster struck for Ferrari after the German rejoined the race when, half a lap in, he experienced an energy recovery system and ground to a halt.
The retirement caused a virtual safety car, which offered up essentially a free pit stop for the other drivers. Hamilton boxed and rejoined comfortably ahead of Leclerc, while Bottas also changed tyres and rejoined in third.
George Russell also used the opportunity to pit but, with the virtual safety car still engaged, suffered an apparent brake failure that saw him crash into the barriers and the safety car deployed. Even though it would see him rejoin behind Bottas, Ferrari decided to call Leclerc in for another set of fresh tyres in the hopes that his pace would see him hunt down the two Silver Arrows.
It was not to be though, as the Ferrari would overheat when on the attack, requiring Leclerc to back off and let it cool down. Hamilton forged ahead, taking fastest lap of the day and an extra point to his tally. Bottas and Leclerc claimed the other two spots on the podium respectively with Max Verstappen in his Red Bull crossing the line 18-seconds later.
Although Vettel completed less than a third of the race before retiring, he earned himself driver of the day. Small compensation for his rotten luck after what looked like a spot on top of the podium.
Hamilton now moves 73 points ahead of his teammate at the top of the driver's standings with five races to go – inching him closer to a sixth world championship title.
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