Brilliant start hands Valtteri Bottas maiden GP win

© XPB 

Mercedes Valtteri Bottas' held off a late race charge from Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to claim his maiden Formula 1 victory in 81 Grand Prix starts, in what proved to be a thrilling finish to a slow-burn Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Starting from third place on the grid, Bottas has blasted straight past Kimi Raikkonen to take second place. He went into the first turn alongside polesitter Vettel, and won the battle for the lead into turn 2. Behind them, Hamilton found himself in a three-wide battle with Raikkonen and a fast-starting Max Verstappen. The Briton was forced to cede third place to the Ferrari in order to successfully fend off the Red Bull.

A first lap collision between Haas' Romain Grosjean and Renault's Jolyon Palmer triggered a brief safety car. Several backmarkers took the opportunity to make their first visit of the day to pit lane before the race resumed.

Bottas remained in the lead and soon built up a comfortable lead over Vettel, the pair pulling away from the rest of the field. Hamilton was unable to challenge Raikkonen for third, complaining of power cut-outs on his Mercedes and warned by the team in turn about overheating issues.

Williams' Felipe Massa was the first of the leaders to pit at the end of lap 22. He gave up sixth place and came back out in tenth behind the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. Despite complaining of blistering on his ultrasoft tyres, Bottas stayed out five laps longer before giving up the lead to pit.

That handed Vettel control of the race, although the Ferrari was initially frustrated running behind the slower Williams of Lance Stroll. Raikkonen and Verstappen both made their stops at the end of lap 29. Hamilton came in next time by, while Vettel sought to build up an advantage over his rivals by staying out until lap 34.

That restored the running order, with Bottas almost five seconds clear of Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Verstappen. Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was yet to stop and was in sixth ahead of Massa, followed by the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten in the Toro Rosso, with Stroll the final car on the lead lap.

Hulkenberg finally pitted at the end of lap 40, and moments later Massa was forced to make an unscheduled second stop for a slow puncture. The pair slotted back in between Ocon and Sainz in eighth and ninth respectively.

Vettel made good user of his fresher tyres to wipe out Bottas' lead and set up a thrilling finish to the race. Lapping Massa gave Bottas a crucial few tenths of a second relief which allowed him to clinch victory ahead of Vettel. Raikkonen finished ten seconds further back the lead pair, Hamilton even further in arrears as he protected his ailing Mercedes to the finish.

Verstappen was by this point too far back to be a threat. Perez and Ocon delivered another double points finish for Force India, with Hulkenberg and Massa unable to use their newer tyres to press home the advantage. Sainz claimed the last point ahead of Stroll and Daniil Kvyat, while Kevin Magnussen and Stofel Vandoorne overcame penalties for exceeding track limits to finish 13th and 14th ahead of a brace of Saubers.

Retirements

Fernando Alonso's McLaren failed on the initial formation lap with a suspected ERS issue. The MCL32 crawled to half at the entrance to pit lane, forcing an aborted start shortening the race by one lap.

Having both suffered wretched weekends already, Grosjean and Palmer collided in turn 2 when the race finally got underway. The Haas was launched into the air by the contact and impacted the wall, triggering the safety car. Both drivers retired on the spot.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was the final car to retire, his rear brakes catching fire just five laps into the race.

Race results

Pos Driver Team Gap Stops
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 52 laps - 1:28:08.743s 1
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari + 0.617s 1
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari + 11.000s 1
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 36.320s 1
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull + 60.416s 1
6 Sergio Pérez Force India + 86.788s 1
7 Esteban Ocon Force India + 95.004s 1
8 Nico Hülkenberg Renault + 96.188s 1
9 Felipe Massa Williams + 1 lap 2
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso + 1 lap 1
11 Lance Stroll Williams + 1 lap 1
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso + 1 lap 1
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 1 lap 1
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren + 1 lap 2
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber + 1 lap 2
16 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber + 2 laps 2
17 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull DNF 0
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren DNS 0
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault DNF 0
20 Romain Grosjean Haas DNF 0

 
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