Valtteri Bottas stuns Vettel and Hamilton to win F1’s Russian GP
Nerveless at the death in the Russian Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas finally proved(सिद्ध) that Formula One has a new iceman. The promise he has long shown was given full rein in a competitive car at Sochi and exploited (शोषण) with almost complete precision. The lineage (वंश) of Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen has been joined by another Finn proving the country punches well above its weight in F1 winners. He has challenged before and he has been found wanting but under the huge pressure of being chased down by the four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, there was cold steel in Bottas’s performance and a first F1 win for the driver who had taken up racing after passing a karting track by chance was the reward.
F1: Russian Grand Prix – as it happened
Valtteri Bottas claimed his first ever grand prix win in Sochi, holding off Sebastian Vettel by 0.6secs with Kimi Raikkonen third and Lewis Hamilton fourth
“When I drive there is not much emotion in there,” he said. “I’m just trying to get everything right and get every lap, every corner perfect. All the questions, all the speculation, No2 driver and so on, it doesn’t get to me. It doesn’t matter.”
He was a hugely popular winner, congratulated immediately by his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Vettel, who was sporting in defeat. “He’s done a superb job, it’s his day and he deserves to win because he drove better than all the rest of us,” said the German.
On a one-year contract with Mercedes, Bottas has a lot to prove this season if he is to be retained (बनाए रखा) and this was the best possible case he could make to do so. Drafted in at short notice to replace Nico Rosberg in the close season, he has had to come up to speed at the team fast. His previous best results were two second places at the British and German Grands Prix in 2014 for Williams, while a spin behind the safety car in Shanghai raised questions about whether, now in a championship-contending car, he could make the step up. It appears that he has answered them admirably.
His victory, ahead of Raikkonen in third and Hamilton, who struggled for performance, in fourth, was executed clinically in what was at times a fascinating but not spectacular race. There were little overtaking after the grid had cleared the first braking zone at turn two on lap one at the Sochi Autodrom, a circuit that does not lend itself to cars following one another. This is a factor that will once again raise concerns over the difficulties in passing imposed by the new regulations that had been somewhat allayed after the first three rounds.
The result extends Vettel’s lead over Hamilton in the title fight to 13 points. Hamilton was uncharacteristically not able to extract what he needed from his car all weekend, first with bringing his tyres into the operating window and then with balance during qualifying. During the race he was unable to make any inroads beyond fourth with temperature issues affecting his car.
“It was a very tough weekend, I just wasn’t quick enough,” he said. “I’ve never had cooling issues like that before but it meant I was out of the race from the get-go. I’m just hopeful that I can pick up the pace at the next race. I need to understand where the speed was this weekend, where I went wrong with the setup, and then come back fighting. There is still a long way to go. I am still second in the championship, so it is not the end of the world, but of course I need to recover the pace that I had previously because it was a very, very unusual weekend.”
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas overtakes Sebastian Vettel who was on pole, and Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari to take the lead on lap one in Sochi
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas overtakes Sebastian Vettel, right, who was on pole, and Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari to take the lead on lap one in Sochi Photograph: Srdjan Suki/EPA
Mercedes did overtake Ferrari by one point in the constructors’ championship but, with the fight for the title likely to be nip and tuck, these were points Hamilton could ill afford to drop. Mercedes’s executive director, Toto Wolff, acknowledged they had problems. “We didn’t give him the car to do the job this weekend,” he said. “It is a priority for us to sort this out before Barcelona.”
Bottas, however, had just the setup he wanted and made one of the passes that counted. The Finn enjoyed an exceptional start from behind the two Ferraris, launching off the line and then making the most of the advantage the Mercedes enjoys in straight-line speed. He passed Vettel on the drag down turn two and had the lead through the corner. With the pace over Ferrari it was up to the Finn hold his place and his nerve.
That he could do so was evident early on, having nailed the restart after an early safety car and he led into the pit stops. Ferrari opted to leave Vettel out for a further seven laps, gambling that fresher rubber at the end would enable him to catch and pass Bottas.
Vettel set off in chase and the demands on the Finn became clear. On lap 38 Bottas went wide at turn 13 and locked up, giving his left front a flat spot. The error cost him time and put the wind into Vettel’s sails, and another mistake would likely have cost him the race as the final 10 laps provided a gripping finale. Overtaking may have been lacking but there was at least a dramatic denouement.
Bottas has 80 starts under his belt and is not intimidated by going wheel to wheel in the company of the world champions. Yet the first win is always the hardest and making it to the flag in front was not a given but there was determination and tenacity here as well as nerve enough to seal it. Vettel closed but he had run out of laps.
“There was this strange opportunity for me that happened in the winter that made this possible,” said Bottas. “You never know in life what’s going to happen and it was a great opportunity.” It was one he seized wholeheartedly, as Wolff acknowledged. “It shows to me that the choice we made at the start of the season was the right one,” he said.Max Verstappen was fifth in the Red Bull but his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo suffered a right-rear brake fire and had to retire on lap six. The Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon were sixth and seventh respectively; Nico Hülkenberg did well to put his Renault into eighth with the Williams of Felipe Massa ninth and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr in 10th.
McLaren suffered yet another blow in an already woeful season in which they have still not scored any points. Fernando Alonso, who has still yet to complete a race in 2017, suffered a hybrid problem while on the grid and he stopped his car on the formation lap unable to take any further part. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne finished 14th.