Valteri Bottas Wins The Russian Grand Prix As Hamilton Stumbles To Third
Valtteri Bottas eased to victory at the 2020 Russian Grand Prix after benefitting from Lewis Hamilton’s pre-race penalty. Hamilton collected the 10-second penalty as he made his way to the starting grid. The Mercedes driver decided to stop on the track to make not one but two practice starts. He did so outside of the designated areas and was docked two 5 second penalties. He kept his pole slot but would have to serve his time, so to speak, during the pitstops.
Sensing his moment teammate Valtteri Bottas made an aggressive start off the line after the red lights switched off. But on cold tyres and cold brakes Bottas misjudged his braking by a small enough margin and went wide as he attempted to go round the outside of Hamilton into turn one. Hamilton’s momentum carried him back into the lead but behind the dueling duo a one lap calamity was underway.
Carlos Sainz also ran wide at turn 1. The McLaren driver punted himself out of the Grand Prix as he maneuvered his way back to rejoin the circuit. He clipped the retaining wall/barrier to his left and the rest was pure physics in motion. Lance Stroll was punted out by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc a few corners later. The Ferrari driver was not penalized and eventually finished the race in 6th place.
Verstappen was temporarily down to 4th on the opening lap after Ricciardo got the better of him. However, the encounter was brief and Verstappen was soon back into third. When Hamilton stopped for his scheduled pitstop his quest for victory 91 was over. In the end, Bottas paced himself to an easy victory. The Red Bull of Max Verstappen had no answer to the superiority of the Mercedes ahead of him.
After Hamilton fell down the order, his only hope was for a full safety car period but that hope never arrived and he ended the race in third. Without the pre-race mistake, Hamilton would surely have won. Nevertheless these unexpected moments are expected during the course of a Formula One season. However Mercedes should have checked the rules before the pre-race installation lap.
After the race Hamilton told reporters that he believed the FIA was far too heavy-handed. He blatantly said that act of handing out the time penalty was deliberate, an attempt to sabotage his 2020 championship. In all likely hood, privately, Hamilton doesn’t believe this to be true. Most likely he is trying to throw a spanner into the inner workings of the FIA mindset.
2020 Russian Grand Prix, Sochi Autodrom: Results