Both Toto Wolff and Valtteri Bottas agree that Mercedes’ decision to start the Russian Grand Prix on the medium tyre allowed it to capitalize on a decisive mid-race VSC/Safety car combo.
Ferrari looked set to dominate its rivals in Sochi, but Sebastian Vettel’s retirement and a mid-race VSC turned the tables on the Scuderia.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Bottas jumped ahead of Charles Leclerc and never looked back. But the opportunity was set up by the Silver Arrows strategists’ decision to put their drivers on Pirelli’s medium compound for their opening stint, while most of their rivals were shod with the soft tyre.
After the race, Wolff explained why that call had been decisive.
“It was crucial, because one of the things that we were looking for or that we were hoping for was a late safety car,” said the Mercedes chief.
“And only the medium was able to extend the stint, and that’s what happened, caused by their car failing.”
Bottas, who finished runner-up to Hamilton, also underlined how strategy and circumstances had favourably combined for Mercedes and allowed it to prevail despite the Scuderia’s superior level of performance.
“They had a strong car today, good pace and, as we’ve seen this year, they’ve been extra quick on the straights,” said the Finn.
“So I knew if they get close enough, especially in sector three, they are going to be a big threat into Turn 2. Just really had to try to keep it together, try to minimise the mistakes and the car felt pretty decent today, especially with the soft tyre in the corners.
“I think the team did all the right things. Already the decision to start on the mediums to go long in the first stint, you start to hope for that VSC or safety car to come – and today it came, like a miracle.”
Conversely, had there been no mid-race safety car, it would have been a very different story for Mercedes insists Wolff.
“I think we had good pace at the beginning, Lewis was able to hang on to Charles, the Ferraris were pushing each other very strong and very hard, and I think we would have gone onto the soft for the last 25 laps and been on a soft against a medium,” commented the Austrian.
“Realistically, you must say, I think it would have probably been enough to follow the gearbox, like in the last few races. But not enough.”
Charles Leclerc says he still holds trust in Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel after the latter’s defiance of team orders in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
A pre-race agreement between Leclerc and Vettel called for the latter to slipstream past Sochi’s poleman after the start to allow the Ferrari duo to build its advantage over its Mercedes rivals before Vettel would give back the leading position to Leclerc.
The first part of the plan worked to perfection, with the German blasting off the grid, outpacing Lewis Hamilton into the first corner and slipstreaming past his teammate thereafter.
However, when the call came from the Ferrari pitwall telling Vettel to cede back the position, the German stalled the move by finding convenient reasons to remain in front.
Lap after lap, Leclerc was told “Sebastian will let you by next lap”, only for the positions to remain unchanged, a plight that understandably frustrated the Monegasque.
Ultimately, the situation between the two drivers was resolved, but not to Ferrari or Leclerc’s advantage.
Vettel was sidelined by an engine issue, while his teammate who had regained the upper hand thanks to the undercut was set back by the untimely activation of the VSC and the deployment of the Safety Car which – coupled with Mercedes’ tyre strategy – gave Hamilton and Bottas a crucial edge.
The talk after the race was rather Leclerc felt he had been let down or deceived by Vettel’s defiance of Ferrari’s orders. But the 21-year-old saw no reason to question his trust in his teammate.
“Yeah, I think the trust doesn’t change and I think we need to trust each other, Seb and myself,” said Leclerc.
“I think it’s hugely important for the benefit of the team in some situation, to know that you can count on the other car and vice versa.
“So, yeah, I think it’s very important, but yes, the trust is still here.”
Diplomatically, Leclerc said that the race’s circumstances had perhaps led Vettel to ignore Ferrari’s team orders.
“There was a safety car straight away, so then it was quite difficult, I tried to stay as close as I possibly could, for two or three laps, but then it was very difficult to follow – especially first and second sector, the tyres overheated, and then I dropped back a little bit,” he explained.
“But then I was, as I said on the radio, I had 100 percent trust in the team to do it themselves as it was agreed before the race, and that’s what they did at the pitstop.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said Charles Leclerc was asked to ensure Ferrari ran one-two at the start of the Russian Grand Prix in a plan that led to Sunday’s team orders row.
Leclerc qualified on pole alongside Lewis Hamilton with team-mate Sebastian Vettel directly behind in third place. In order to help Vettel get ahead of Hamilton, Leclerc did not defend the inside line against the Mercedes but instead stayed to the outside so Vettel could pick up a slipstream that ultimately gave the German the lead, something Binotto says was agreed pre-race.
“Obviously looking at the past races in Russia, we know that it is important to be ahead at the first lap, because normally if you start first, you may finish first,” Binotto said. “As a team, obviously the victory was key, so we decided that the most important thing for us was to be first and second on the first lap, because by being first and second, we would have somehow control and manage the pace and control the positions, which is what was happening.
“We were first and second, and as a matter of fact we were controlling the race, and without our reliability issues, we would have kept the positions after the pit stops. And it is very difficult to overtake, as we can see with Charles at the very end of the race, I’m pretty sure he had better pace than (Valtteri) Bottas, but again it was very difficult to overtake.
“Being first and second was the key objective. How can you do that when you start first and third, and certainly protecting the first position but also make sure that you gain a position being second?
“We agreed together that the best way was not to give any slipstream to Hamilton at first, because giving a slipstream to Hamilton would give him some advantage, at least some possibility. And therefore Charles would give the slipstream to Seb, that was what we agreed and discussed. But by giving the slipstream to Seb and not giving the position (to Hamilton), it would give an advantage to Seb which later on in the race we could give back by swapping the cars. So that was the deal.”
Binotto says Vettel was instructed to give up the lead based on the team’s reading of how the start panned out, but after Vettel declined to do so he insists Ferrari did not then manufacture a position change through the pit stops.
“Looking at the video, our judgement that the start went as planned, and therefore we thought it was right to ask Seb to swap the positions. Eventually the two drivers may have different opinions by driving the car, but that is something which we may discuss with them.
“We initially asked Seb to give the position back, but it’s fair enough to say at that stage in the race that maybe Charles was not close enough, and we would have lost some time on track. Later on, Seb was quite fast and gained some track advantage on Charles. So we knew that we could decide to do it later on.
“The undercut was not for the reason [of] giving back the position to Charles. The undercut was [also] because Charles stopped because he had worn tires, his left-rear was starting to be worn, so it was the right moment for him to pit. We knew as well that if we had stopped both our cars there, we would have been vulnerable on Safety Cars by giving the lead to Hamilton, so we tried to stay out as much as we could with Seb, simply to protect in case of Safety Cars later in the race.
“Again, Seb, when his tires were worn, it was the right moment to pit. As a matter of fact, Charles was ahead, Seb was behind, but the race was still not over and there would have been plenty of opportunity to decide with them what would have been the best option later on.”
Haas boss Guenther Steiner may come under scrutiny from the FIA for his scathing objection to the Russian Grand Prix stewards’ call and penalty against Kevin Magnussen in Sochi.
Magnussen was handed a 5-second time penalty in Sunday’s race after venturing off track at Turn 2 while fighting Sergio Perez and failing to pass to the left of the bollards placed in the corner’s run-off area.
During Magnussen’s cool down lap, Steiner – whose colorful language is an integral part of the Haas boss’s personality – lashed out on the radio at the stewards’ decision which had dropped the Dane from eighth to ninth in the race’s final results, insisting the call was made by “a stupid idiotic steward”.
Magnussen was also unimpressed with the officials’ sanction, calling it “bullshit” and underscoring the fact that his forced off-track excursion had already lost him a big amount of time.
The governing body’s International Sporting Code includes a code of conduct outlining the rules and responsibilities of participants which include not using words that could bring the sport into disrepute.
According to Motorsport.com, the FIA is now pondering whether to take the matter regarding Steiner’s criticism further, or perhaps deal with the incident in an informal way.
“The FIA has got its various judicial processes,” FIA race director Michael Masi told Motorsport.com.
“I’ve heard about the comments that were made on the radio. I haven’t seen them directly so I’m not going to comment on what those are.
“At the end of the day we’re all here to do a job, be it officials, the teams, everyone. There has to be a level of mutual respect.
“If something’s been said that’s inappropriate, there’s those that are in charge of the judicial elements away from the event that can look at it.”
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner could find himself called to speak to the FIA regarding radio messages sent to Kevin Magnussen during the Russian Grand Prix.
Magnussen was handed a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and not re-joining as instructed at Turn 2, after he did not negotiate both bollards in the run-off area. The penalty came despite the Dane losing a position to Sergio Perez by going around one of the bollards, a decision that Magnussen described as “bull****” after the race.
In a radio message from Steiner to Magnussen after the checkered flag – when the Haas had been demoted to ninth behind Lando Norris due to the time penalty – Steiner said “if we wouldn’t have a stupid, idiotic steward we would be eighth” to which Magnussen replied: ”Yeah thanks buddy, what a load of s***.”
Though he had already been approached by Haas team manager Pete Crolla, FIA race director Michael Masi had not heard the radio message for himself when he spoke to media on Sunday evening but said there are ways for the FIA to take further action if needed.
“I think the first part is, it’s not for me to determine what that is,” Masi said. “That’s probably the very first element of where that sits. The FIA has got its various judicial processes, being at the circuit with the stewards.
“There’s various other processes and avenues that exist within the judicial and disciplinary rules that the FIA has, and I’ve heard about the comments that were made on the radio, I haven’t seen them directly. I’m not going to comment on what those are. At the end of the day, we’re all here to do a job, be it officials, the teams, everyone. So I think there has to be a level of mutual respect.
“But with regards to the specific comments, I haven’t seen them, so I’d prefer not to comment on them until I have. If something has been said that is inappropriate, there are those who are in charge of the judicial elements away from the event that can look at it.”
Steiner also visited race control following the race – although Masi said he did not speak to the team principal himself – and cancelled his media commitments on Sunday evening.
The beneficiary of a strange series of circumstances, Lewis Hamilton managed to take an improbable victory while tensions flared at Ferrari on Sunday in Russia.
It might not be among F1’s most popular tracks, but boy, does Sochi deliver the drama.
A year removed from Valtteri Bottas being asked to move over for Lewis Hamilton, we were once again treated to a bit of good old fashioned beef between teammates, this time between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.
Even if it was ultimately Vettel’s MGU-K failure that cost them the victory, it’s no surprise this is the biggest story of the race. We’ve spent basically all season discussing how Ferrari could manage two superstar drivers in the same team, and here in their first real test, it turns out they couldn’t.
Whatever agreement they had here in Russia about swapping places after Vettel slipstreamed past Leclerc at the start, it quickly broke down in the heat of the race, while Mattia Binotto and co proceeded to only made things worse.
Say what you will about Vettel, but one thing is for sure: the man has never considered himself a number two driver. Evidently, he believed conceding his lead under this particular set of circumstances would constitute as much.
From Vettel’s perspective, as much as Leclerc had done him a solid at the start, it wasn’t like the Monegasque had much of a choice, either – it was either give his teammate the tow, or Lewis Hamilton. Add to that the fact that he was fast enough to keep his lead on merit, and Vettel ostensibly thought he shouldn’t be made to bend over backwards for a teammate who would’ve done exactly as he had, regardless of direction from the pit wall. I’d say it’s a pretty fair point.
Nevertheless, Ferrari were determined to give Leclerc back his lead, even if it meant essentially sabotaging Vettel’s race, which they did by extending his first stint well beyond its use-by date to engineer the swap in the pits. Naturally it came back to bite them in the backside when Vettel pulled over on lap 27, and the Scuderia leave Russia with two unhappy drivers regardless.
Amidst all that of course, now Mercedes and Hamilton have one hand and approximately three fingers on the championship. They say the rich get richer, and that certainly applies to Mercedes after Sunday.
Lost in all the hubbub out front, Valtteri Bottas did an excellent job keeping Leclerc behind after the safety car period. Provided the exact sort of rear-gunning Mercedes needed from him.
Love this photo of Hamilton hugging the inflatable Babushka doll, still not loving the haircut, though.
Ferrari’s antics weren’t the only bizarre happening on Sunday, as Robert Kubica was apparently retired by Williams to “conserve parts” for the rest of the season. If that doesn’t speak of a team in crisis, I don’t know what does.
Driver of the Day: Alex Albon
From a pit lane start to fifth at the flag, Albon had quite a day, including this pass on Pierre Gasly – you know that felt good!
Worst of the Day: Ferrari
Both for the MGU-K failure and trying too hard to appease Charles Leclerc, the Scuderia really made a fist of it.
Quote of the Day:
“Let Charles by”
“Then tell him to close up” – Sebastian Vettel, a man with a different plan.
Carlos Sainz insists he planned to attack Mercedes and Ferrari at the start of the Russian Grand Prix after securing another top six finish for McLaren.
Sainz started from fifth after an impressive qualifying performance was boosted by grid penalties demoting Max Verstappen from fourth place on the grid. Ferrari played out a choreographed start to get Sebastian Vettel ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and Sainz used the Ferraris to pick up a slipstream that allowed him to jump Valtteri Bottas and momentarily pass Hamilton on the run to Turn 2.
“I’ve been getting really good starts the whole season so I knew if I got a good start again – a good 0-100 – then maybe I could get the tow of Vettel, of a very fast Ferrari, down the straight and have a shot at fighting with the Mercedes and the Ferraris into Turn 2, which was my target,” Sainz said. “We managed it, which was nice to see because at least you give yourself a shot at being there.
“It didn’t last very long though! Unfortunately we came back to reality, the Mercedes passed us and it was all about controlling the race, which I think we did really well. Very good pace all the way through, and best of the rest which I think this weekend is the maximum we could do.”
Verstappen moved into fifth place in the first part of the race and Sainz then dropped behind Alexander Albon – who was recovering from a pit lane start – late on, but says he had to pick his battles as he was wary of the threat of Sergio Perez in the closing stages.
“The Safety Car obviously didn’t help, but at the same time that Red Bull on the softer tire, a much quicker car this weekend, was very difficult to keep behind,” he said.
“With eight laps to the end, and Perez three seconds behind him in a super-quick Racing Point, I thought about giving (Albon) an eight-lap defense, but in the end if Perez comes from behind and gets in our DRS, the Racing Point is so quick on the straights it’s very easy to lose that P6 that you had ensured yourself after such a tough weekend for the team, and such a strong race for us. I think it made sense to give it a go, to see if I could keep him behind, but then no!”
Looking back on a compelling Russian Grand Prix the biggest talking point has to be how Ferrari once again shot themselves in the foot as they messed with team orders and lost a race that should have been a one-two for them.
Charles Leclerc’s complained over the radio about an agreement of sorts that the young Ferrari driver would tow his teammate Vettel off the line, the pair started first and third – it was a logical tactic.
The previous night’s debrief obviously did not factor in that Seb would get himself a fantastic start, hardly needing a slipstream from the #16 Ferrari and simply breezed by into the lead from Turn 1 of the race at Sochi.
Thereafter the German set an incredible pace – the Seb of old sprang to mind – as he went about making a point, and with it inadvertently or not taunted his teammate with: catch me if you can!
At this point, when he should have scurried around behind his teammate, young Charles got on the radio to complain about the situation. The team tripped up as they tried to talk ‘sense’ into their elder driver.
Obviously, Mr Multi-21 at the front was having nothing of it and basically told his team to piss-off he had a sniff of victory and he was going for it. The young Monegasque was left fuming (twice in the space of a week) and radioed: “We will talk later…”
A German driver in an Italian team with a French-speaking driver always gives Seb the ‘lost in translation’ excuse and after the race, he alluded to not quite understanding the agreement. Smart as usual, our man Seb.
But this piece is not about the four-time F1 World Champion, but rather about his precocious teammate the sport’s new Complainer-in-Chief.
I am in awe of the Monaco Kid and I know I am not alone. His speed, his attitude and his passion have won everyone over. The tifosi, the Scuderia and the whole of Italy are fired up by what Leclerc can do in their race car.
He has had a stellar September, entrenching himself in the sport with four fantastic pole position efforts at Spa, Monza, Singapore and most recently Russia.
He also won twice and might have won thrice had Seb not demolished him with three gorgeous laps, during the pitstop window, to take an unlikely victory at Marina Bay. That night, the junior driver bleated over the radio (in the heat of battle) about his teammate’s “unfair” tactics.
Later, by his own admission, Charles said he over-reacted during the race in Singapore and must learn to shut up in the car, “I just need to control myself more in these situations and just shut up instead of speaking on the radio.”
The kid, who typically learns fast, alas did not learn to zip-it since last week and the fact that he took issue over the radio, during the race in Russia, provided everyone with insight into the volatile situation between the drivers in Red.
With that in mind, why are the Scuderia’s drivers even entering into such agreements?
Furthermore, at this stage of the game – they are not going to win any championship this year – surely the objective is victory, as many as possible.
Why employ team orders at this stage? Are team orders not supposed to be for one guy helping the other to win the title? There is no title up for grabs here, so does it matter who wins as long as the team does?
And even when the track order was #5 followed by #16, why go into panic mode and demand Seb relinquishes the lead? Why the public display of wanting to comply with the whinges of their young driver? Does he expect privileged treatment from his team?
Should the order not have been: hold station guys, pull away from the Mercs as much as possible in the first stint. We will give Charles the undercut, Seb will tuck in behind and we will get us a one-two. Which in the end is what happened, except that Seb broke down and messed-up the one-two bit. But that’s another story.
The question is why the dramatic radio-noise that exposed the greatest weakness in the Red camp?
Charles is racing for the biggest team on the planet, and is being painted as a messiah of sorts, and perhaps rightfully so. But he would be wise to temper his outbursts, not wear his heart on his sleeve and, most importantly, lose the apparent vanity of entitlement that this astoundingly successful month may have entrapped him with.
He has only raced 16 times for Ferrari, he is at the beginning of a journey that should keep him with them for years if not decades to come. There is no rush.
At the same time, he is a racer, he should know that every racer would have done exactly what Seb did on Sunday in Russia. The fact that the four-time F1 World Champion was awarded Driver-of-the-Day was a loud-and-clear message from fans that needs no explaining.
I would venture that the fan-voted accolade alone was a better reward, for Seb, than the empty-souled third place was for Charles.
Seb did what he had to do. Charles did what he shouldn’t do and that is to moan on the world stage. As much as there is little to dislike about the Kid with a bright future, right now, good advice to the lad would be: shut up and drive.
Lewis Hamilton sped closer to a seemingly inexorable sixth Formula 1 World Championship title with a “special” victory in Russia on Sunday, but the Mercedes driver still insisted he was taking it one race at a time.
Hamilton is 73 points clear of second-placed teammate Valtteri Bottas with five rounds remaining and a maximum 130 points still to win thanks to the extra point awarded for the fastest race lap.
“I just don´t try to think about it,” Hamilton said when asked about the championship situation. “It´s not that it´s difficult, it´s pretty easy just to focus on the task in hand… honestly just focusing on trying to be the best I can be each weekend, one race at a time and making sure I´m just delivering at a high-rate.”
While the Briton cannot clinch the title at the next round in Japan, if he scores more points than Bottas at Suzuka he will be in a position to wrap things up in Mexico on Oct. 27 with three races to spare.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, third in the standings, is 107 points behind Hamilton while the Monegasque’s German teammate Sebastian Vettel remains only just in the mathematical running with a deficit of 128.
Even if Bottas wins every remaining race with the fastest lap, Hamilton does not need to finish on the podium again this year, such is his advantage.
Hamilton has won nine of the 16 races to date and Mercedes have won 11 in total, but he said Sunday was a special one.
It was his 82nd career win, nine short of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91, and he also took the outright record of 143 races led that he had previously shared with the great German.
Yet, despite Mercedes having won every Russian Grand Prix to date, it was also a surprise with Ferrari chasing a fourth win in a row and enjoying a significant speed advantage on the straights.
“That´s exactly what we needed,” said Hamilton of a one-two victory that calmed jitters in Brackley and Stuttgart over Ferrari’s resurgence. “Those guys are still quite dominant at the moment so it’s taken quite a special job from us today to come out ahead of them.”
Team boss Toto Wolff agreed with the star driver who is on the brink of ensuring Mercedes carry off the title double for an unprecedented sixth year in a row, “That´s what we love in racing. You can win the race even though you haven´t got the quickest package. And that´s what happened.
“It makes it so special. You start to doubt and you know where you have the deficit and then you cling on to these few hopes like a safety car (intervention).
“You´re hanging it out there and then it happens. We’re just overwhelmed in the team. It´s such an important step towards the championship also,” added the Mercedes team principal
Mercedes lead Ferrari by 162 points in the constructors’ standings with 220 remaining to be won.
Motorsport head Toto Wolff has said new engine deals with McLaren and Williams are not linked to Mercedes’s future in Formula 1 as a works team and the brand’s involvement in the all-electric Formula E series.
Mercedes and McLaren announced an engine supply deal from 2021 until at least the end of 2024 at the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday.
The German manufacturer had previously extended the Williams contract through to 2025.
Asked whether the deals might reflect planning for a future where Mercedes focused on supplying engines rather than running a works team in F1, Wolff told Sky Sports television there was no connection.
“One is not linked to the other. I think we’ve got to see how F1 develops and we are at a crucial time now to see where the regulations go and how it all pans out,” said the Austrian, principal of the Mercedes Grand Prix team. “Its a different topic in supplying customers, which is a standalone decision.”
F1 is set for a major shake-up in 2021 with new regulations designed to make the sport more competitive along with the introduction of a budget cap. A new commercial agreement has yet to be finalised, however.
Mercedes, the home of world champion Lewis Hamilton, have won the F1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the past five seasons and are making their debut in Formula E in November.
Wolff said he and Niki Lauda, the team’s late non-executive chairman, used to have ‘big discussions’ about whether Mercedes should supply other teams or just concentrate on the works outfit.
“Since then times have changed a little bit. We believe that the learning curve is steeper with having more engines out there,” he said.
“You saw that we had some failures on (Robert) Kubica’s (Williams) car in Spa and on (Sergio) Perez’s (Racing Point) car in Monza and that is part of the learning process.
“It is a cash topic also, one more customer means better cash flow for Daimler (Mercedes’s parent company) overall and we are up for the challenge. McLaren is a great team and a good group of people.”
Mercedes engines look set to be supplied to four of the 10 teams in 2021, with Racing Point currently using them along with the world champions.
Big Question: Are Mercedes starting to plan for life beyond F1?
Kimi Raikkonen says Alfa Romeo needs to understand its current issues and “clean up” its act after a series of four races which the Finn called “nightmares”.
At Sochi on Sunday, Raikkonen crossed the checkered flag a lowly 13th, although the 39–year-old only had himself to blame for the depressed result, have made a false start on the grid that warranted a drive-thru penalty.
Alfa Romeo Racing team boss Frédéric Vasseur knew from the outset that Raikkonen’s afternoon would be a challenging affair, but the Frenchman agreed that the Swiss outfit needs to get its affairs back in order.
“For Kimi, a penalty for a false start meant coming back into the point from the back of the field was a tall order,” Vasseur said.
“It has been a few tough races, so we need to regroup and find our groove again for the final races of the season.”
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had rather different interpretations of the pre-race agreement between them which led to a dispute over the Ferrari team radio during the opening laps of the Russian Grand Prix.
Leclerc started from pole position with Vettel lining up right behind him in third place on the grid. When the lights went out, Vettel was able to get a tow from his team mate down the long straight, propelling him past Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton into turn 1.
That was all part of the Ferrari plan for the start of the race. But then it appeared that Vettel was expected to surrender the lead back to Leclerc as soon as it was safe to do so – and he didn’t want to.
“The tactic was me giving the slipstream obviously for us to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened,” Leclerc explained.
“For sure he did a great start, but as it has been said on the radio the start performance was exactly the same but after that I just stayed on the left to give him the slip stream.
“But then I don’t know, I need to speak to the team to understand the situation better.”
Shortly after the restart following a brief safety car, Leclerc was told by the Ferrari pit wall that “Sebastian will let you by next lap” – but it never happened.
Vettel appeared to be concerned that Hamilton was still too close and could pounce if the two Ferraris slowed up and got distracted by swapping the cars around.
“I would have got him anyways,” he said, after which he began to stretch out a lead over both Leclerc and Hamilton. “Let’s break away for another two laps. Let me know.”
A few minutes later Vettel received the instruction “Let Charles by”, to which he responded: “Well, tell him to close up”. But by now his gap over Leclerc had put him out of DRS range of his pursuers and there was no way for Leclerc to catch up without active co-operation from Vettel, which was not forthcoming.
“You put me behind, I respected everything,” complained Leclerc. “We’ll speak later but now it’s difficult to close the gap, obviously.”
As Leclerc continued to lose ground, the Ferrari pit wall finally had to concede that the swap wasn’t going to happen at this point: “Charles, we will do the swap a bit later on. Lewis is a bit close, and we want to push now. We will do it later. Just focus on your race. Thank you.”
“I completely understand,” Leclerc responded at the time. “The only thing is that I respected [the team plan]. I gave you the slipstream no problems. I tried to push at the beginning of the race, but I overheated the tyres.
“Anyway, it’s no problems,” he added, perhaps remembering his promise to keep his cool over the team radio in future. “[I’ll] manage the situation.”
Leclerc eventually pitted on lap 23, with Vettel staying out for another four laps on rapidly waning soft tyres before making his own stop. He came out of pit lane just behind Leclerc, but the whole dispute was made irrelevant when a technical issue with Vettel’s engine forced a retirement moments later.
“I will always trust the team,” Leclerc said when asked about the issue after the race. That neatly sidestepped the question about whether this could lead to future problems between himself and Vettel coming so soon after their similar dispute in Singapore.
“We will try to speak now. I think everything has been respect in a way, because I gave the slipstream and then we had to do the swap back which we did at the pit stop. And that’s it.”
For his part, Vettel said he was surprised about what had happened and was at a loss to explain the apparent misunderstanding with his team mate during the race.
“I don’t know exactly what happened there to be honest,” Vettel told Sky Sports F1. “I think we had an agreement. I spoke with Charles in particular before he race, I think it was quite clear.
“But I don’t know, maybe I missed something,” he shrugged. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it, but obviously it’s bitter today because we wanted to have one-two.”
Vettel said that he didn’t want to go into any more detail about the nature of the agreement or the team’s tactical strategy heading into the race.
“That’s not something I want to share, to be honest,” he insisted. “I don’t want to put the team in a bad position afterwards because somebody said something here and there.
“I know it’s not fair because I think people deserve to know so it’s not a big deal,” he said. “Sorry, but I really prefer not to [say too much] in a way.
“Obviously I was in third, Charles was in first, and we were talking about a strategy to past Lewis,” he added. “I had a very good start so there were a couple of options on the table.
“I think [we raced properly] until the pit stop in a way, because obviously I lost the lead during the stop and then the car broke down so it’s a bit irrelevant. But up to that point, that’s what did.”
“It is a great honour to work for this prestigious brand,” said de Silvestro, who currently competes in the Australian Supercar championship.
“I am really looking forward to my new role as test and development driver for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team.
“Over the last few years, I have gained a lot of experience from my previous involvements in Formula E. I will do my best to help Porsche on the road to success.”
Fritz Enzinger, Porsche’s VP for motorsport, believes both of the manufacturer’s new recruits will contribute to its FE effort.
“In Simona and Thomas, we have acquired two proven talents for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team,” said Enzinger.
“Simona comes with a wealth of experience gained in various different race series and is also a familiar face in Formula E. We are looking forward to working with her and welcome her to the Porsche family.
“Thomas has been with us since 2017, during which time he has demonstrated his talent in GT racing on numerous occasions.
“With the Formula E programme, we are giving Simona and Thomas the opportunity to develop as drivers and to make a positive contribution to the Porsche Formula E project.”
Williams driver Robert Kubica says the Russian Grand Prix was the worst race weekend of his entire career in motor racing.
Days after the Pole announced he is leaving the Grove outfit at the end of the season, his father Artur told a Polish newspaper that the team’s “financial situation is bad” and added, “Williams is definitely looking for money to survive.”
Those comments appear to have been borne out at Sochi, when Williams took the unusual decision to retire Kubica’s healthy car.
The team reported in their race summary: “We opted to retire Robert soon afterwards in order to conserve parts ahead of the intense flyaway races which end the season.”
Eleven Sports quotes Kubica as saying, “I could say something, but that would not be right, so it’s better to say nothing, but I had the goal to finish all the races and it’s a pity that this will not happen now. For some things, it’s better not to go into details or try to understand them. I understand to an extent.”
“You always have to try your best with what you have, and this is what I was trying to do. After George’s DNF, the team decided to stop my car, to take care of the parts that we have on the car. We are not in an easy situation and Japan is around the corner.”
Not just that, Kubica said his car was close to undriveable all weekend in Russia, “On Friday after four laps I said something was wrong with the car, but nothing was done.”
“I have not had a worse weekend than this since the beginning of my career. And I am not talking about the level of my driving. Now I am going home and I will do some reflecting, also for next year.
Big Question: Are Williams being disgraceful with Robert?
Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix didn’t yield a career best for Sergio Perez, but the SportPesa Racing Point driver says his performance in Sochi was nevertheless one of his best since he’s been racing in F1.
Perez had qualified out of the top-ten but when the lights went off at the start the Mexican blasted off the grid and promptly dispatched four cars on the opening lap to move himself up from P11 to 7th.
From there on, the Racing Point charger’s afternoon was all about race management, which he handled perfectly, enjoying a few good scraps along his way to seventh.
World Champions Mercedes savoured a ‘deliciously ironic’ win at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday after Ferrari tried to engineer a one-two finish but ultimately shot themselves in the foot and handed victory to their fiercest rivals.
Charles Leclerc had started on pole position for the Italian team, who had looked set to celebrate a second successive one-two.
Instead, a virtual safety car triggered by Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari breaking down on track helped Lewis Hamilton to maintain Mercedes’s 100% record of winning in Russia with his ninth victory of the season, ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
“We were fortunate in the way it played out,” said technical director James Allison a former Ferrari man. “It’s deliciously ironic in a way that it was Sebastian’s misfortune that brought us our fortune.”
The virtual safety car slowed Leclerc, who had already pitted, while giving Hamilton the time to take fresh tyres and stay in the lead.
Before that moment, Ferrari had been embroiled in controversy over a pre-race strategic agreement between their drivers, played out over the team radio, to make sure they got past Hamilton at the start.
Vettel, third on the grid and directly behind Leclerc with Hamilton to the right on the front row, slipstreamed the helpful Monegasque and led him into turn two.
The agreement, as Leclerc understood it, was for Vettel to then hand back the advantage. Vettel argued he would have got by Hamilton anyway and banged in a series of quick laps.
Clearly unhappy with the situation as the team tried to engineer the swap, Leclerc complained that he had ‘respected everything’.
The swap eventually happened during the pitstops but not before it had become a major talking point.
“I find it very strange that Sebastian had to give the place back, but it’s a decision they’ve made,” said 2009 world champion Jenson Button, in Russia as a pundit for Sky Sports television.
“I think they’ve over-thought it, personally, because it looks like he (Vettel) just got a great tow as normal there.”
Vettel would not comment on the details of the deal, “I spoke with Charles in particular before the race and I think it was quite clear. Maybe I missed something.”
“I was in third and Charles was in first and we were talking about a strategy to find a way past Lewis,” added the four-times world champion, who won the previous race in Singapore after strategy played into his hands. “Obviously I had a very good start so there were a couple of options on the table.”
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto moved to defuse the tension on a difficult day for a team whose run of three wins in a row came to an end, “Charles would have given the slipstream at the start to Seb to make sure we would have been first and second at the first lap, as that would have put us in the best position to control and manage the race.”
“Ideally we would have swapped back. But Seb was very fast in the race so any decision could have been postponed. Anyway, he got such a good start that he overtook Hamilton even before Turn 1 so in his mind, which probably is right, it wasn’t Charles giving him the slipstream. He took simply the slipstream because he was in that position.”
Before the Russian weekend got underway, it was already clear that both Red Bulls, both Toro Rosso’s and one Williams would get grid penalties.
From Friday onwards, it was Charles Leclerc that set the tone and throughout Saturday, the Ferrari driver remained top of the class.
The race got off to a great start with Sebastian Vettel taking over the lead from Leclerc while the German started in 3rd. Only Lewis Hamilton was able to hang-on within striking distance. Leclerc was very vocal again about the position he found himself in but the team urged him to keep his focus and all will get sorted out later in the race.
At one point, Leclerc pitted and found himself behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas and when Vettel pitted, the order was restored when Vettel came back on track behind Leclerc. What happened next changed it all. Vettel slowed down and the team told him to stop. After the race he told reporters that he had an issue with his battery.
The thing is, because of the fact Vettel had to stop, it caused a VSC (virtual safetycar) period which meant that both Mercedes drivers got a “free” pitstop and got back on track, still in front of Leclerc.
The driver that was so dominant all weekend, not only lost his teammate for constructors points but thanks to his teammate’s retirement, he lost the lead and had to try and overtake 2 Mercedes cars.
This turned out to be impossible and Hamilton took his 82nd win, including the fastest lap. Bottas came in 2nd, the 42nd podium of his career while Leclerc had to settle for 3rd place.
Did Ferrari lose it because of Vettel’s retirement?
In my opinion, it already went wrong after the start when Leclerc and his engineer was vocal regarding what happened and that it wasn’t according to plan. They were so busy trying to get the strategy working and giving Leclerc back the lead, that they didn’t see what else was possible. They should have just let them race.
Not to say the outcome would have been different, but I’m sure if Vettel could do his own race and instead of pushing, Leclerc could continue managing his tyres, they could have done with Leclerc what Mercedes did with Bottas and be a roadblock for Vettel.
Instead, they opted to give Leclerc back the position by using the pitstops. Leclerc was 0.4s off from a safe pitstop but while Leclerc’s pitstop was 2.5s, Vettel his pitstop lasted three seconds and there was the 0.4s and then some.
All went still to plan but then Vettel’s MGU-K failed and while Vettel was of the opinion that he had parked the car on a safe spot and could easily be backed into the escape road, a VSC made sure all cars couldn’t go faster than a certain delta time.
This meant both Hamilton and Bottas could pit while Leclerc, still a long way off, was driving much slower and so it happened that both Mercedes cars ended up in front of Leclerc.
Starting on the medium tyres with both Ferrari drivers starting on the soft, it usually meant that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas could go longer match the red cars with the speed they showed all weekend, I thought Hamilton would get second or third, with Bottas off the podium.
Sebastian Vettel’s retirement caused a VSC and by doing so gifted Mercedes a “free” pitstop so in that respect, yes, they were lucky. That said, Hamilton was the only one that could really keep up with Leclerc and Vettel so there could always have been a chance that Hamilton might win or came close to winning.
However, the unexpected happened and Hamilton found himself in the lead with Bottas in 2nd and that’s how it stayed till the end.
Before the weekend started, all four Honda-powered teams would get grid penalties and so would Red Bull. Max Verstappen made the most of it during qualifying on Saturday but had to start from 9th. His teammate Alexander Albon made a huge and costly mistake during qualifying and crashed.
Due to the extensive damage, a lot had to be replaced and he had to start from the pitlane. A good start and a solid race from Verstappen meant he was in no-man’s land for most of the race and would end up 5th but because of Vettel’s retirement, he ended up 4th at the finish. His teammate Albon had an exciting and eventful race from pitlane as he overtook one car after the other and at the finishline, found himself in 5th position. In my opinion, both drivers got the most out of the race.
Although Sergio Perez did a strong race to finish 7th, my vote would go to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris who finished in 6th and 8th. They had a solid race and stayed in front of the Renault team that only had Nico Hulkenberg left to fight.
“These 12 points are crucial in our ongoing battle to secure fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship.”
That is a tough one. Toro Rosso as they couldn’t make enough progress. Alfa Romeo for the same reason but then again, Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat spend more time fighting each other, Kimi Raikkonen made a jumpstart and got a drive-through penalty that in effect destroyed his race and Antonio Giovinazzi just didn’t have the pace.
Daniel Ricciardo retired with extensive damage to his floor after his contact at lap 1 while Williams also didn’t make it as George Russell crashed out and Robert Kubica was called in to retire “to conserve parts ahead of the upcoming races”.
So to name one, I would go with Giovinazzi unless he also had an issue I didn’t know about, except the contact with Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean on lap one.
Antonio “It was not the kind of race I was hoping for but it is what it is. I got stuck in the middle between Ricciardo and Grosjean on lap one: We’ll need to check if there was any further damage as it was quite a big hit and the car didn’t really feel right afterwards.” pic.twitter.com/RCU4yp4XmH
We have a weekend of rest as the next F1 race is in 2 weeks time when we head to Japan. Meanwhile, there is a bit of racing during the upcoming weekend and it is already updated on the #MsportXtra Weekend Outlook so follow @MsportXtra on Twitter or check the website. www.msportxtra.com for all the latest news.
Haas F1 team boss Guenther Steiner blasted an ‘idiotic’ time penalty that cost his Danish driver Kevin Magnussen precious points at the Russian Grand Prix.
“If we wouldn’t have a stupid, idiotic steward, we would be eighth,” Steiner told his ninth-placed driver over team radio at the end of the race.
Later the team chief added, “Kevin, at the end, lost a position, then he was given a five-second penalty – which I think was completely inappropriate. Anyway, we got two points for ninth place, that’s better than nothing. Kevin fought very strongly at the end and the whole team worked hard for these points.”
The five-second penalty for braking too late and going off track, supposedly gaining an advantage, was imposed after he had already lost out in a battle for seventh to Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
“That penalty could have meant disaster for us. It was such a harsh penalty, for nothing,” the Haas driver told Sky Sports television.
Magnussen said he had lost far more lap time by running wide at the ‘nightmare’ Turn 2 rather than going through the bollards, “I don’t get it. Why would you give me a penalty when I haven’t won anything and in fact, I’ve lost a whole lot.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to give (Lando) Norris that (eighth) position and McLaren those points because he didn’t deserve it,” declared the Dane.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said that victory in this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix was almost as good as his first win in F1.
It’s his first time back on the top step of the podium since the summer break, after Ferrari scored three consecutive wins at Spa, Monza and Singapore to leave the Silver Arrows reeling.
But that drought has only made success in Sochi all the sweeter for Hamilton on Sunday. “It’s incredible to have this result today,” he said after the race. “It feels like a long time coming, but it feels like the first time as well.
“It feels long, particularly with the break and everything, so this is really down to the team today. We all had to play our part, and I think we brought our A game today.
“Just keeping up with them was an incredibly hard task this weekend,” he continued. “It’s been so hard just to try and stay within distance of them. To separate them in qualifying was good.
“[In the race] they were on another planet when we took off from the start. They were gone. After that, they had such great pace, so I was struggling just to keep up with them.”
With Hamilton starting from second place between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, Mercedes had hoped to gain a tactical avantage by starting the race on the medium compound tyres while others opted for softs.
But in the end, the extra longevity didn’t prove to be much of an advantage in the race.
“We thought that the soft tyre would drop off, so this morning was like; either we’re right in our estimation of the tyre, or they are right. And I think they were, because the soft tyre went really far.
“However, I was just able to keep them within shooting distance,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “Their tyres did start to go off a little bit, and that’s when I started to make a bit of a difference by closing that gap.
“Then Charles came in [to pit on lap 23], obviously I started to catch Seb, but we were in a best position to be able to offset.”
The advantage shifted when a virtual safety car period gave Hamilton the opportunity to get ahead of both Ferraris. Shortly after, a technical failure put Vettel out of the race.
However Hamilton felt that even without that piece of good fortune he would have been able to fight with Leclerc and Vettel in the second half of the race.
“Even if the safety car hadn’t come out, we would’ve extended [the first stint], come out of the soft,” Hamilton explained. “[Vettel] would’ve been on the mediums, and we would’ve potentially had a race.
“I don’t think I would’ve come out ahead of him, but we would’ve had a race,” he said. “Unfortunately, the safety car [came out] and his engine blew, so that kind of stole the show for the fans.”
Overall Hamilton was delighted with how the weekend had gone, enjoying the hard fought nature of the victory even more due to the challenge.
“We love the challenge. It’s great to see them performing so well, so I’m really excited for these next few races. It taking a lot, a lot of energy, but that’s what we’re here for.
“Honestly we’re working flat out all the time but you have to start questioning your approach and how you go about things and could you do better. And you have to then tense up even more to make up even that tiny bit of difference.”
With five races remaining in the 2019 season, today’s victory in Sochi brings Hamilton ever closer to securing his sixth world championship. And while he insists he’s not thinking about it, it’s clear that he’s still very aware of the situation.
“I say this every season, honestly I try not to think too much about the championship,” he said. “Just one race at a time, one step at a time.
“I think collectively that’s what we’ve been working on. Obviously it’s getting harder and harder as the season goes on.
“One step at a time. One foot in front of the other, we don’t want to stumble. But of course we’ve got to keep on putting performances like this in.
“Just an incredible job by all the guys here this weekend,” he added. “Not giving up, trying new things, pushing forwards, always trying to be innovative and never giving up.
Sebastian Vettel says the team-orders headache Ferrari was experiencing in the early laps of the Russian Grand Prix was made irrelevant by his retirement from the race.
Charles Leclerc started from pole, but Vettel got a good start and picked up the tow from his teammate on the long run to Turn 2, Leclerc choosing not to defend and so ensure the pair emerged in first and second places.
Vettel was then told to give the position back to Leclerc in the opening stint, but didn’t do so. So the team let Leclerc get the undercut during the pit stops, getting him ahead of Vettel, but the German retired soon after with a power unit problem.
“I think we did (race),” Vettel said. “I think that is what we did until the pit stop in a way because, obviously, I lost the lead during the stop, and then the car broke down so it is a bit irrelevant. Up to that point that is what we did.
“I don’t know what happened. I think we had an agreement. I spoke with Charles in particular before the race. I think it was quite clear, but I don’t know, maybe I missed something. I’m sure we will talk about it, but obviously it is bitter today because we wanted to have the cars finishing one and two. So not the result that we wanted.”
However, when asked what was agreed between himself and Leclerc before the race, Vettel was less keen to explain what Ferrari had planned.
“I don’t want to share. Not a great deal, but I don’t want to put the team in a bad position afterwards because somebody said something here and there. It is just … I know it is not fair because I think people deserve to know. It is not a big deal.
“I obviously was in third, Charles was in first, and we were talking about a strategy to find a way past Lewis. I had a very good start. So there were a couple of options on the table. But, sorry, I really prefer not to (say more).”
When all was said and done, Magnussen elaborated on his frustrations and his disputed punishment which came while he was racing Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
“That penalty could have meant disaster for us, it was such a harsh penalty, for nothing,” said the Haas driver.
“We have this Turn 2 which is a nightmare corner, drivers have complained about it so many times. The FIA have tried their best to put cones and bollards and kerbs…
“I come off to the run-off with a lot of speed, and I’m thinking it’s not a good idea to try and stop the car and turn it. I’m focused on try to keep the car in control and get through this bollard thing safely.
“I come out, I’ve lost the position and lost a lot more time than I would have gained by going behind him [Norris]. I’ve lost a whole lot of lap time going through there.”
Sebastian Vettel defied ridiculous team orders during the Russian Grand Prix, on a day the German showed mighty pace, deft racecraft and earned the Driver of the Day award for his efforts which ended when he parked his Ferrari with a MGU-K issue.
With Charles Leclerc on pole it appears the team ‘arranged’ for the #16 car to tow the #5 car from the jaws of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. But Vettel got himself a monster slipstream and also blitzed past his helpful teammate.
That apparently was not part of the deal and Leclerc demanded a swap, and thereafter it all got sticky for Mattia Binotto as his senior driver was clearly defying orders.
The fact that Vettel emerged behind his teammate after his first pitstop, to nullify the matter, raises the question: Why did Ferrari make such a fuss so early on in the race when the undercut was a sure way to swap their drivers?
Alas for the tifosi, it all points to another Ferrari strategy blunder.
Speaking after he parked his Ferrari on lap 26 of the race, Vettel said, “I don’t know exactly what happened… I think we had an agreement, I spoke with Charles especially before the race, it was quite clear, maybe I missed something? I’m sure will talk about it.
“It’s bitter today because we wanted to have one-two, I don’t know if Charles was third still but it’s not the result we wanted. I don’t want to share. I don’t want to put the team in a bad light afterwards, I was in third and Charles in first and we were talking about a strategy to get past Lewis, I had a good start.
“We did race. I think that’s what we did until the pitstop because obviously I lost the lead during the stop and then the car broke down.
“Did I get the driver of the day? At least that’s something. It’s bitter because this year has been tough. I unlocked the car, yesterday Charles was quickest and I can’t be happy with that today I was on the rhythm and fastest to the stop.
“The positive today is that the car is faster. On raw race pace, Mercedes have the edge, but today should give them a headache,” added Vettel.
Big Question: How did Ferrari mess up their strategy so badly?
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto says that the team will bounce back from the setbacks it faced in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The early stages of the race were blighted by a disagreement between their drivers over the team’s agreed pre-race strategy, which called for Charles Leclerc to give Sebastian Vettel a tow down the straight at the start which promoted Vettel into the lead.
“We had asked Charles to grant Seb the slipstream, because it was the best scenario to be first and second at the first corner,” he told Sky Sports Italia.
“We agreed together that the best way was not to give any slipstream to Hamilton at first, because giving a slipstream to Hamilton would give him some advantage, at least some possibility.
“Therefore Charles would give the slipstream to Seb, that was what we agreed and discussed.
“But by giving the slipstream to Seb and not giving the position it would give an advantage to Seb which later on in the race we could give back by swapping the cars, so that was the deal.”
However Vettel didn’t hand the spot back when initially told to by the Ferrari pit wall. It was eventually achieved during the first round of pit stops, but not without having caused some rancour within the team.
“Maybe we have to be more precise before the races,” Binotto acknowledged. “We will talk to them to review what happened at the start of the race.”
Vettel subsequently retired from the race with power unit issues, pulling over to the side of the track and triggering a virtual safety car that ended up helping Lewis Hamilton take victory for Mercedes.
“We had to stop Vettel immediately due to fears he would do more damage to the car,” Binotto said. “If he didn’t have to retire we would have held second place.
“To win we must be reliable and today we have not been [because] we had a problem with the power unit,” he added. “Vettel went very fast and we were very happy for him, today his race was perfect.”
He promised that the team would up its game in the remaining races of 2019, saying that Sunday’s result was ‘painful’ given that Ferrari has been hoping for a one-two sweep.
“After today we will be even more aggressive,” he said. “Third place hurts us, because this result is the result of our mistakes.
“We must be encouraged by the performance, but today we have not been perfect,” he admitted. “We said in the beginning of races to win we had to be perfect – and we haven’t been perfect.”
Kevin Magnussen is furious at the penalty he received during the Russian Grand Prix despite scoring his first points for Haas in five races.
While defending from Sergio Perez in a fight for seventh place, Magnussen ran wide at Turn 1 and had to go around two bollards before rejoining. As the Dane only navigated one of the bollards, he was given a five-second time penalty even though he lost the position as a result of the off. He said the decision was unfair as it ultimately cost him another place — dropping him to ninth behind Lando Norris — after the checkered flag.
Kevin Magnussen is given a five second penalty for leaving the track at Turn 2
“I was hard done by today, no doubt about it,” Magnussen said. “This is bullsh*t. We have this Turn 2 which is a crap corner, it’s just stupid. Just put gravel there or something.
“I’m not a safety expert and never will be, but I think the way it happened today was I missed that corner, went through a load of crap off the line on the run off, lost a hell of a lot of time, and then got penalized. The FIA didn’t have to do anything; it wasn’t black and white, and yet they chose to give me a penalty.”
“What can I do? I’m sure they will see it after. I have a feeling that they’ve made a mistake and that they’re going to see that and do a better job next time. They’re human as well, so they can make mistakes; but I hope they see (them).”
With the penalty leaving him under threat from cars behind, Magnussen says he is proud of the finish to the race he produced in an attempt to pull a big enough gap to not lose any positions.
Race over in Sochi@KevinMagnussen crosses the line in P8 but will finish P9 with the 5-second penalty added.
“I am happy — I am really happy about the race; satisfied with the performance today. But it’s quite overshadowed by this … disappointment. I feel let down.
“I got told I had that penalty; the team said, ‘We need everything from you now’. They gave me maximum engine power, using way more than we should have, but they timed it perfectly so I could use all my energy. I had to do six qualifying laps, and I absolutely nailed all of them. I obviously had the car to do it as well; everything was perfect for that scenario.”
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz says he resisted fighting Red Bull’s Alex Albon for position in the closing stages of the Russian Grand Prix because he feared he would risk losing out to a fast-moving Sergio Perez behind.
Sainz finished sixth at Sochi after a solid drive that put the Spaniard back in the points after a disappointing streak of races since the summer break.
The McLaren charger was among the front-runners at the start, having launched his race from fourth on the grid, and even challenged the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton at the first corner.
“We got a good start which was our first target to give ourselves a chance of at least fighting the Mercedes and the Ferraris into Turn 1,” said Sainz.
“That was a lot of fun, it’s a nice way to motivate yourself.
“The whole race, [we had] good pace, good management of the tyres, of the whole strategy and we finished best of the rest which was exactly what we wanted.”
Asked whether he could have held his own against a Mercedes or a Red Bull, Sainz felt that battling either for position would have perhaps made him vulnerable to an onslaught from behind by Sergio Perez’s very fast Racing Point.
“Unfortunately, I think to fight a Mercedes or Red Bull at the moment we need to gain another half a second to make it worth it, because at the moment the only thing it does is to make you lose one or two seconds of your race time.
“And with such a fast car like Perez on the straights coming from behind, I didn’t want to let him get into my DRS while battling with Albon because that Racing Point is mighty quick on the straight.
“There was a bit of management to do there. Maybe if it had been the last lap of the race, no doubt I would have been a lot more aggressive, but today after a few tough races it was important to get points on the board.”
Charles Leclerc insists he still trusts Sebastian Vettel despite his teammate ignoring team orders to switch positions early in the Russian Grand Prix.
Vettel picked up a tow from Leclerc on the run to Turn 2 at the start of the race, with the pair working together to ensure Ferrari ran first and second ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap. Leclerc then expected to be given the position back in the opening stint, but Vettel defied requests from the team to let him by in the first stint. Only an early first stop for Leclerc allowed him the undercut that gained him back his position ahead of Vettel, although it was not in the race lead.
“I think the trust doesn’t change and we need to trust each other, Seb and myself,” Leclerc said. “Because I think it’s hugely important for the benefit of the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car and vice-versa, both ways.
“It’s very important, (and) yes the trust is still here.”
“I think everything was respected at the start. I went to the left to give Seb the slipstream; I knew he would overtake. Then we just had to do the swap back.
“The situation then, though, was quite tricky. There was a Safety Car straight away. I tried to stay as close (to Seb) as I could, but then it was very difficult to follow, especially in the first and second sector. The tires were overheating and then I dropped back a little bit.
“Then, as I said on the radio, I had 100 percent trust in the team to do it as it was agreed before the race, and that’s what they did in the pit stop.
“I actually had no reason to fight because, as I said, I trusted completely in the fact that we would swap back after, so there was no need to take any risks at that time. That’s why I just didn’t fight.”
LECLERC: “It’s good to be back on the podium, but a shame for the team to not have the second car on here. I will always trust the team, but I need to speak with them to know the situation better”#RussianGP#F1pic.twitter.com/2sqhWLYSmR
With Vettel retiring on his out lap after losing a place to Leclerc, the Virtual Safety Car allowed Hamilton to pit and retain the lead. Leclerc said his chances of winning would not have been greatly altered if Vettel had moved over in the opening stint.
“Not if the (Virtual) Safety Car had been at the same time. To be honest, that was the main thing that went wrong today but there was nothing that we could have done. It’s a shame for the team because I believe we had the potential to do very good today, and, yeah, with the Safety Car at that time of the race, it was not great for us.”
Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari had called the better strategy in Sochi, but the Virtual Safety Car helped him win the Russian Grand Prix.
Ferrari qualified on the soft compound tire while Mercedes went for mediums on Saturday in order to have a different strategy after watching Ferrari control last weekend’s Singapore GP from the front. Charles Leclerc started from pole position and Sebastian Vettel third at Sochi, but at the start, Vettel led his teammate out of Turn 2 and Hamilton said the pace Ferrari showed on soft tires in the early laps confirmed Mercedes was going to struggle to win the race.
“To win the race? I don’t think I was particularly confident but we knew that we were obviously on the different tire to put ourselves on a slightly different strategy in that respect,” Hamilton said. “I hoped that would give us an opportunity to dice and fight with them at some stage, but before the race we sat down and said our estimations. Will the soft tire last or not? Either we will be correct or they will be correct.
“I think, ultimately, they were right because the soft tire was much stronger than we anticipated. Obviously there was that difference between the compounds, so keeping up with the softs with their consistency and speed was hard — I wasn’t expecting that.
“There was that slight tail-off toward the end where I was able to start to close the gap; but it wasn’t massive chunks that I was taking out of them. Then we were able to extend for something like 15 laps, hoping that when we came back out on the softs, we had a chance to fight with one of them on different tires.
“But obviously the Safety Car and all those things came into it,” Hamilton observed.
With Leclerc pitting under the Safety Car and dropping to third place, Hamilton also had praise for his teammate Valtteri Bottas after Mercedes secured a 1-2 finish.
After the stops and Safety Car, Hamilton pulled clear, leaving teammate Bottas to fend of Leclerc. Image by Mauger/LAT
“Valtteri did an exceptional job. It is not easy keeping the Ferraris behind and Charles has been driving so well. Ultimately it is an incredible day for the team considering the challenges that we’ve had. We knew that we had to pull more out of this car this weekend, that there was more potential (in it). But we didn’t know where it was so we pulled ourselves a little bit closer to the Ferraris this weekend and it was just enough to get ahead of them.”
Ferrari ended up facing a team orders row during the race as Vettel took the lead courtesy of an agreement with Leclerc about how to approach the start. Hamilton admits he lost out on the run to Turn 2 in part due to the way the pair worked together.
“When we did the laps to the grid, I didn’t have a lot of grip. I don’t know about Valtteri, but I was a bit worried. We definitely lost a little bit in the initial phase but then I wasn’t able to get into the tow because (Charles) stayed on the left and gave Seb the tow. I tried to sneak in behind Seb but there was a McLaren there so I had no tow down to Turn 1 and I nearly lost another place.
“After that I tried to keep up with them, trying to do qualifying laps every lap just trying to keep up with them as they were so fast. That was a challenge but one I am really proud of.
“I’m really proud of everyone and I hope that everyone back at the factory is able to relax for a second (but) then come back and work hard tomorrow because we still have many races to go and a lot of challenges ahead of us.”
Toto Wolff was beaming with happiness and not a little relief after Lewis Hamilton led Valtteri Bottas to a Mercedes one-two in the Russian Grand Prix.
It had seemed an unlikely outcome 24 hours earlier when Ferrari looked to have the upper hand. But a dispute over team orders and a technical failure on Sebastian Vettel’s car proved game-changers on Sunday.
But for Wolff, the victory was mostly proof of the hard work put in by every member of the Mercedes team in Sochi to overcome what had looked to be a dominant Ferrari threat.
“Over the whole weekend they have been better. We had a big job on our hands,” the Mercedes team principal acknowledged after Sunday’s race.
“Today is one of those races that go to show the points are won on Sunday and not on Saturday, and that most of all you can never give up.
“We managed to take a one-two finish today even though we didn’t have the quickest package,” he said. “Lewis was relentless, keeping the pressure on and holding onto the Ferraris in the opening stint.
“It makes it so special,” he added. “It’s unbelievable because you start to doubt when you have the deficits, and you cling on to hopes like the safety car.”
The possibility of a safety car was one reason why Mercedes chose to start the race on medium tyres while their rivals opted for the soft compound.
“We started on the medium tyre and one of the reasons we did that was to have the flexibility to stretch the opening stint,” he said. “Both to take advantage of a possible safety car after Ferrari had pitted, but also to have the option of using the soft in the final stint.
“So we were running it long, hanging it out there a bit and then the race came right towards us with the virtual safety car for Vettel’s failure.”
Early race leader Sebastian Vettel suffered a power unit issue midway through the race just minutes after making his pit stop. The ensuing VSC helped Hamilton get the jump on Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari to claim the race win.
Leclerc dropped to third place behind Bottas following a subsequent full safety car. Wolff pointed out the major role that the Finn had played in achieving today’s success.
“He was a big part of us winning,” he stated. “He knows his way around this track with a Ferrari breathing down his neck, and he didn’t put a foot wrong this afternoon even with huge pressure from Leclerc.
“If Charles would have got through, the win would have been at risk. Valtteri drove brilliantly.”
Bottas said he was happy for the team, even though he would have preferred to be the one coming out on top at the end of the race.
“It’s been a while since we last had a one-two and it feels really good to stand up there on the podium together again,” he said. “It’s really encouraging and motivating for the entire team.
“We knew a one-two would be tricky to achieve, but possible, so we spoke about all the different strategies that would give us a chance this morning. and I think we did a really good job as a team today.
“It’s a really good result if you think about how much we were struggling yesterday,” he said. “We know that we need to keep pushing for Japan, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Wolff acknowledged that the one-two victory in Sochi with just five races remaining in 2019 gives both Hamilton and Mercedes almost unassailable leads in the driver and constructor championships respectively.
“We’re just overwhelmed, it’s such an important step towards the championship,” he said. “But even in the joy of this win, we must not lose sight of the fact that we didn’t have the best package here this weekend.
“We have some updates to come in Suzuka,” he revealed. “But most of all we need to put our heads together over the coming days and understand how to maximise our package in Japan, so that we extract every bit of potential from it and come back stronger.”
Max Verstappen and Alex Albon believed they both made the most of their Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing drivers concluding their day respectively fourth and fifth at Sochi.
Verstappen launched his race from P9 following his five-spot grid penalty, but lost no time moving up through the field in the first part of the race, executing a few great moves along the way.
Unfortunately, the RB15’s pace in Sochi was no match for Red Bull’s fellow front-runners Mercedes and Ferrari.
“We were clearly a bit slower, but of course in the last bit of the race it was no help to be on harder tyres,” said Verstappen.
“We maximized it for sure, but of course we all want to do better, we all want to score podiums and potential victories. So we’ll look into what we can do better.”
Albon admitted that the configuration of Sochi’s track didn’t facilitate his overtaking moves.
“This track, the way it’s designed, when you’re following in a train it really feels a lot worse than other tracks because it’s almost like a tunnel system where all the air is stuck in one place, a little like a street track,” he added.
“The downforce loss was immense when following, it just meant that I couldn’t do the overtakes like I was used to in Spa and Monza, I couldn’t out-brake people.
“But once there was one driver by himself that you could attack, it was no problem.”
The Red Bull rookie said that he needed to get up to speed and into the groove earlier in the race weekend to extract a better performance on Sunday.
“It feels at the moment, always FP1 is a struggle and it gets better through the weekend,” he said.
“On Sunday it’s normally more or less okay, I just need to get into that rhythm and speed earlier in the weekend.
“It’ll come, I just need more laps. Up to the race it had been a tough weekend but I’m getting more comfortable.”
Williams report from the Russian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sochi Autodrome.
George Russell and Robert Kubica did not finish the Russian Grand Prix
The Brit started 17th and Robert 18th on the grid, both on the medium Pirelli tyre
George’s race ended after locking-up and hitting the barrier
Robert’s retirement was a team decision to conserve parts ahead of the upcoming races
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: “Today was tough and deeply frustrating for the whole team. We took the opportunity behind the early safety car to pit Robert twice aiming to complete his race using only Option tyres.
“Meanwhile we were able to leave George out and run long until a Virtual Safety Car provided an opportunity for a cheap pitstop on to the Qualifying tyre. Unfortunately, an issue shortly after the subsequent restart caused George to lock a front wheel, damaging the car further.
“We opted to retire Robert soon afterwards in order to conserve parts ahead of the intense flyaway races which end the season. It’s a very disappointing way to end two weeks on the road.”
George Russell: “It was a disappointing Russian Grand Prix. The car was feeling good, and then all of sudden after the pitstop there was an issue and the next thing I knew, I was in the barrier. It was a shame for the race to end like that as we were showing some strong pace.”
Robert Kubica: “This weekend has been very disappointing. You always have to try your best with what you have, and this is what I was trying to do. After George’s DNF, the team decided to stop my car, to take care of the parts that we have on the car. We are not in an easy situation and Japan is around the corner.”
Racing Point report from the Russian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sochi Autodrome.
Sergio Perez, 7th
Strategy: Soft (23 laps) – Medium (30 laps)
“It was a very good race for us today. I’m very pleased with how we maximised the result. I think it’s been one of my greatest races that I can remember. We had a good start and great management throughout the stints, knowing when to fight and when to hold back, and that made a huge difference.
“We were unlucky with the timing of the Safety Car, but we recovered and we took every single opportunity. Since the summer break we’ve been on it and we’ve been scoring some important points. We worked hard for it today and we couldn’t have done any better.”
Lance Stroll, 11th
Strategy: Medium (27 laps) – Soft (26 laps)
“It was a tough race today and to finish just outside the points is really frustrating. I spent a lot of time in traffic and I wasn’t really happy with the balance of the car.
“I struggled to keep the tyres under control throughout and we were sliding the rears a lot – and that cost me at the restart when I got overtaken by Hulkenberg. The car was more competitive this weekend so there are plenty of positives to take away, but we just have to keep it going until the end of the season.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal: “We raced well today, making the most of the race circumstances, and splitting the tyre strategies across the cars. Strong opening laps from Sergio and Lance helped our cause, but the mid-race Safety Car kept the pack close together and allowed some of our competitors to make a second stop for fresher tyres – Hulkenberg, for example.
“The timing was not ideal for either car, especially Lance. We showed good pace over the final 20 laps with Sergio overtaking Magnussen for seventh place and Lance battling with Norris and Hulkenberg over the final points. It’s a shame to miss out on getting both cars in the points, but given how the race unfolded, we welcome the additional six championship points.”
Max Verstappen climbed from ninth place to fourth at the flag, while Alex Albon stormed through the field to claim a brilliant fifth place after starting from the pit lane as the Bulls staged an incredible race recovery from grid penalties at the Russian Grand Prix.
With the Team electing to take PU-related penalties ahead of the weekend in order to put both drivers in the best position for the final five races of the season, the race at the Sochi Autodrom was always going to be tough, with Max starting in ninth place and Alex relegated to a pit lane start after a qualifying crash led to repairs under Parc Fermé conditions. However, both Bulls delivered outstanding drives to claim 22 valuable championship points at the end of a tricky weekend.
At the start of the race Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made a superb start and was past second-on-the-grid Lewis Hamilton before they reached the turn one kink. Vettel then got a massive tow from pole-sitting teammate Charles Leclerc and stole the lead through turn two.
Max jumped up to P8 at the start from ninth place on the grid but behind him there was a collision involving Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. The incident resulted in Grosjean exiting the race, while both Ricciardo and Giovinazzi required pit stops for repairs.
The collision brought out the safety car and under the caution Vettel led from Leclerc with Hamilton third ahead of Sainz. Max was still in eighth place while Alex had risen to P16.
When the safety car left the track Vettel held his advantage over his teammate, a situation that appeared to cause some friction, as Leclerc had apparently expected the German to allow him to retake the lead after affording Vettel a tow after the start. The chatter over the radio would continue for some laps until Leclerc was told that the pass would take place later in the race after the pair had built a sufficiently large gap to Hamilton in third.
Max and Alex, meanwhile, were making moves forward. On lap eight Max powered past Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez through turn four to steal seventh place. Four laps later he launched a brave but brilliant move on McLaren’s Lando Norris in to turn one to take sixth place and then, on lap 17, he powered past the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz under DRS into turn one to claim P5.
Alex meanwhile quickly cleared Williams’ George Russell after the safety car and then inherited P14 when Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen was handed a drive-through penalty for a jump start. He inherited another place when Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg suffered a slow second pit stop due to a front jack issue and then forced his way past Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat to rise to P12.
At the front, Leclerc was the first of the leading pack to pit, with the Monegasque driver stopping for medium tyres on lap 22. He rejoined in fourth place behind Bottas and then began to set fastest laps.
Despite complaining of fading rear tyres Vettel stayed out until lap 26 and when he finally dived into the pits to take on medium tyres the lead changed hands as promised, with Leclerc flying past to take the lead.
Vettel’s time in action after his stop was brief. By the time he reached turn 15 of his first lap out from the pits his Ferrari had given up and an engine issue saw him pull over at the side of the track.
That brought out the Virtual Safety Car and then when Williams’ George Russell crashed out under the caution, the physical safety car was deployed.
Under the caution a host of cars pitted, including Max (for medium tyres) and Alex (for softs).
And when the order shook out, Mercedes had profited hugely, with Hamilton in P1 ahead of Bottas. Leclerc was now down in third with Max in fourth place. Alex meanwhile was into the points after all the stops, in 10th place.
When the racing resumed, the leading drivers held their positions but further back Alex made a brilliant re-start to pass the Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Segrio Perez and the McLaren of Lando Norris to claim P7.
Alex then began to hunt down Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and at the end of lap 42 he launched a late-braking attack into turn 13 that worked perfectly. With P6 claimed he next set off after Sainz who was on the medium tyre.
And the Thai racer capped a brilliant afternoon with an equally brilliant move past Sainz at the start of lap 49. He pulled alongside the Spaniard on the sweep through turn three and then powered past on the entry to the next corner to seal fifth place.
That was how the order remained until the chequered flag. Leclerc pushed hard to get past Bottas, but the Finn stoically resisted the pressure and after 53 laps Hamilton crossed the line to take his ninth win of the season and the bonus point for posting the fastest lap two tours from home. Bottas was second ahead of Leclerc and the Bulls wrapped up a brilliant fight through the field to seal fourth and fifth place.
Behind Alex, Sainz took sixth place for McLaren ahead of Pérez. Norris added to a positive result for McLaren with eighth place, while Magnussen managed to hold on to P9 despite incurring a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage earlier in the race. The final point on offer went to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Finish Position: 4th, Start Position: 9th
“I think P4 was the best possible result today and we had a little bit of luck with Seb retiring, but I’m satisfied with the points we scored considering the penalties and pace of Ferrari and Mercedes. There wasn’t too much going on for me once I cleared the mid-field traffic and from there I had a bit of a lonely race until the Safety Car closed us all up. We were clearly a bit slower than the top three today but at the end of the race it was also more difficult being on the medium compound tyre when the others were on the soft. For sure we maximised the result but of course we want to be scoring more podiums and victories so we still have work to do as the others are very strong. Now I’m looking forward to Suzuka and we want to do the best we can for all the Japanese fans at Honda’s home race.”
Finish Position: 5th, Start Position: Pit lane
“It was a good race and I think P5 is the best we could have done. I wanted to bounce back and get a good result after yesterday’s crash so I’m really happy with how the race went, although we probably got a bit lucky with the Safety Car. Morale was obviously a little bit low on Saturday night and it was a lot of work for the Team so this result is for them. Starting from the pit lane was never going to be easy but the pace was quite strong on the softs and it was a good haul of points. I started out of position and had some fun coming back through the field, but I don’t want all of my races to be like that. I like boring races too so I’m hoping for a cleaner and smoother weekend in Japan. In the first stint I was struggling to get past Daniil and Pierre and it took me a long time. The downforce loss is immense when you’re following in a train of cars which I think is because the track is designed a bit like a street circuit. Up to the race it had been a tough weekend but I’m getting more comfortable. I just need to get up to speed and in a rhythm earlier on in the weekend, but that will come with more laps and time in the car. With the exception of Abu Dhabi, all of the remaining tracks will be new for me so Suzuka will be difficult, but I like new tracks.“
Christian Horner, Team Principal: “It was a good performance from both of our drivers today. For Max, P4 was the maximum on the table having started from P9 and he made some great moves early in the race to move up the order. His pace at the end of the race was respectable but not quite enough to challenge the top three.
Meanwhile, Alex, who started from the pit lane, performed well to make his way through the field, making some great overtakes in what was another mature drive. To finish up in P5 was an impressive race from him and fourth and fifth was probably the maximum achievable for us today. We now look forward to the Japanese Grand Prix, Honda’s home race.”
McLaren report from the Russian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sochi Autodrome.
Started 5th. Finished 6th
Fastest lap 1m38.020s on lap 53 (+2.259s, 6th)
Pit-stops 1, lap 21 [Soft/Medium] (3.6s)
“Very good race. A great start and a very solid execution from everyone today. It was great to fight the Mercedes into Turn Two, which was one of my targets today. From then on I could control the race and I had good pace all the way through, even though it was impossible to hold both Red Bulls.
“This was not an easy weekend for us, but we managed to put it together and take another best of the rest finish. Great performance from the whole team and double points again. Congratulations.”
Started 7th. Finished 8th
Fastest lap 1m38.301s on lap 52 (+2.540s, 11th)
Pit-stops 1, lap 20 [Soft/Medium] (2.2s)
“Today has been a positive day for the team with good points. Carlos and I both made good starts and gained positions. My first stint was reasonably good with decent pace, but then the VSC after my pit-stop shook things up.
“Cars came out of the pits from the VSC who were slower, preventing me from pushing as much as I wanted to, and then I was vulnerable to cars behind on fresher tyres. It was tough to keep the Renault and Racing Point behind. But overall a good weekend with more points for the team, a good reward for their hard work.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Today we got back to having two cars finishing in the points. It’s a great team achievement particularly because everyone around us benefitted from the Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car at our expense. These 12 points are crucial in our ongoing battle to secure fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Both Carlos and Lando did a great job today. They made excellent starts and put up a great fight throughout the race. It was also important that we had two solid pit-stops helping to contribute to today’s results. We had a difficult Friday, but with support from home, the team managed to turn it around. We now look forward to Japan having scored over 100 points in the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 2014.”
Renault F1 Team salvaged one point from an arduous VTB Russian Grand Prix with Nico Hülkenberg crossing the line in tenth position, however, Daniel Ricciardo retired on lap 25 after sustaining heavy damage to his car in a first-lap incident.
The race had promised much for the team, with Nico lining up in sixth and Daniel tenth. A difficult start for Nico saw him lose three places, before a slow first pit-stop dropped him out of the top ten. Further misfortune followed when an ill-timed Virtual Safety Car (VSC) allowed others to pit and gain positions, but Nico fought his way back up the order to finish tenth.
Daniel was involved in a first-lap collision at Turn 4, which caused a rear-left puncture. It then became obvious the damage was much more widespread, with huge aerodynamic and balance loss. Unable to make any progress from the rear of the field, he was retired from the race.
Started P6, finished P10
“It was a frustrating race as the car deserved to be better than tenth. Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong today: a poor start, a slow pit-stop and an unfortunate VSC timing. It’s disappointing as the potential was there for a better result. I felt comfortable in the car all weekend, and it had been fairly solid, so to leave with one point is a little frustrating. The midfield is bunched up and it’s going to be like that for the rest of the season. It’ll be nip and tuck throughout and we need to ensure we’re getting the maximum from races.”
Started P10, DNF
“Unfortunately, our race was pretty much over from the start. I had too much damage on the car to carry on, which is a shame. It was a bit chaotic through Turn 2 and I had the inside line for Turn 4 where I thought I was safe. I got hit and had a puncture and damage to the floor. I’ll look at it with the perspective that if I qualify higher up the grid then I’m less likely to be in the bad stuff. I’ll take responsibility for that, but in terms of the accident, I was just a passenger.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal: “Today’s result is frustrating. Since the summer break, we’ve been strong in qualifying with both cars in the top ten. But, in three races out of four, things haven’t gone our way and that was the case again today.
“The lap one collision forced Daniel to retire with damage, while Nico’s race was compromised by a slow first-stop and an unfortunate VSC where he lost places with cars ahead able to pit under it. Once again, it’s easy to blame various circumstances, but it would be too easy to rely on that.
“We simply need to do a better job and offer our drivers even better starting positions and straightforward races. The car has the pace, we need to focus ourselves on achieving that.”
Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen brought home a finish of ninth in the Russian Grand Prix Sunday at the Sochi Autodrom while teammate Romain Grosjean retired after an opening-lap incident.
It was the 16th round of 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship. Both Haas F1 drivers started today’s 53-lap race around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit on Pirelli P Zero Red soft tires, Magnussen from 13th on a new set and Grosjean from eighth on a set used during Saturday’s Q2 session.
Magnussen had a fantastic getaway, moving from his 13th grid position to 10th. Grosjean’s day, however, came to an abrupt end on the opening lap when he was punted off the track and spun into the turn-four barrier by Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who crept between Grosjean and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo to make it a three-wide situation navigating the tight, right-hand turn. The damage to Grosjean’s Haas VF-19 was terminal and caused his seventh DNF of the season.
Meanwhile, Magnussen held firm in 10th place throughout the early stages of his opening tire stint, briefly grabbing ninth on a lap-four restart when he got by Nico Hulkenberg but then losing the position back to the Renault driver two laps later.
Magnussen continued to hold position and, as the field began its opening round of pit stops, crept as high as fifth when he pitted on lap 28 for a set of Yellow medium tires during a virtual safety car for a pair of single-car incidents involving Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari and George Russell of Williams Racing.
Magnussen resumed in sixth when the race went back to green on lap 33 and held off Alexander Albon for the next nine laps before the Red Bull Racing driver took advantage of DRS and soft tires to slip past.
Two laps later, Sergio Perez got by to take seventh when Magnussen drifted wide at turn two. A five-second time penalty was issued to Magnussen, now running eighth, for an improper return to the racetrack.
The checkered flag flew with Magnussen crossing the line eighth, some four seconds ahead of McLaren driver Lando Norris, but the time penalty dropped the Haas F1 driver to ninth. It was Magnussen’s fourth points finish of the season and the team’s seventh.
With today’s results, Haas F1 Team remained ninth in the constructor’s championship with 28 points, seven behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 ahead of 10th-place Williams.
Lewis Hamilton scored the victory in the Russian Grand Prix by 3.829 seconds over his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas with polesitter Charles Leclerc of Scuderia Ferrari taking the final podium spot another 1.383 seconds back. It was Hamilton’s 82nd career Formula One victory, his ninth of the season and his fourth at Sochi.
Romain Grosjean, DNF: “There’s not much to say, the footage is pretty clear. We’ve been working very hard all weekend, and we had a competitive car – we were going to go for points today. There was a huge amount of pressure on us to get into Q3 in qualifying yesterday, we don’t know how often we’ll get those chances. Obviously, our race was then ruined by turn four.
“I had no chance to react. It’s a bit of a disappointing afternoon. It’s hard to digest as I felt this was the weekend we could score. To be taken out on the first lap is very hard.”
Kevin Magnussen, 9th: “I think it’s been a positive weekend in terms of our pace. In qualifying yesterday, it looked very good. I made a mistake unfortunately in Q2 and didn’t go through to Q3, the car had been perfect. Today we had good pace again.
“I made a good start, gained a few positions, had a good first stint followed by a decent second stint, then I lost a few spots at the end and got a stupid penalty. That’s how it is I guess. I had lost the position to Perez, lost a load of time, I had dirt on my tires, I’d already lost enough time.
“Then I get the penalty. I think though, I can speak for the whole team to say it’s been a great relief this weekend to be in contention from the beginning. It’s been a great job from the whole team to keep their heads up.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “Unfortunately, Romain (Grosjean) was caught up in a crash on the first lap which ended his day, but obviously no penalties were given there, it’s all good. Kevin (Magnussen), at the end lost a position, then he was given a five-second penalty – which I think was completely inappropriate.
“Anyway, we got two points for ninth place, that’s better than nothing. Kevin fought very strongly at the end and the whole team worked hard for these points.”
Full transcript from the top three press conference after the Russian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sochi Autodrome.
Featuring race-winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Track interviews conducted by Paul Di Resta
Q: Lewis, congratulations on another race win here in Russia. That’s Mercedes dominated all of these races here since we’ve come here in 2014. But you were up against it. You were pushing hard; you did something very different on strategy. When Ferrari had that issues, the perfect storm, you capitalised on it didn’t you? Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. First of all, just an incredible job for all of the guys here this weekend, not giving up, trying new things, pushing forwards, always trying to be innovative and just never giving up. That makes me incredibly inspired and it’s just incredible to have this result today considering how quick they were off the start. Just keeping up with them was an incredibly hard task. But, as I said, we haven’t given up, we keep on pushing and the car was really fantastic today. So a big thank you to everyone here and also back at the factory, because I know they’re all sitting on their couch with their fingers crossed. And we’ve got a great crowd today as well.
Q: This mindset that you’re in Lewis, generally, we wouldn’t see you quite as happy, getting on the front row as you were yesterday and obviously to go out there and get the job done when you’ve struggled to get on top of Ferrari. What now? Are you thinking about the championship only or do you think it’s about winning races all the way to the end of this? LH: Honestly, I try not to… I say this every season, I try not to think too much about the championship and [take it] one race, one step at a time. I think collectively that’s what we’ve been working on. Obviously it’s getting harder and harder as the season goes on. No, it’s one step at a time; one foot in front of the other, we don’t want to stumble. But of course we have got to keep on putting performances like this in and I know the bosses back in Stuttgart will be super-excited about today.
Q: The team are absolutely rock solid and you can hear it from everybody how excited you are about it? LH: Oh man, it feels like a long time coming but it feels like the first time as well, so that’s why it feels special.
Q: Enjoy. Valtteri, P2 I guess starting from P4, you can’t be too disappointed with that. Lewis had track position and it was bringing it home to the end. Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think starting fourth and finishing second is not bad. For sure, it’s not a win, but as a team, for us it is a big win. It’s been a tough few so it’s good to get back to these kind of results. I had a good race myself. Just the first stint I was lacking a bit of pace, I couldn’t keep up and I was stuck behind one of the McLarens at the beginning. But the second stint felt decent and I just had to keep Charles behind and I managed to do it, so not too bad.
Q: You had that Ferrari in your mirrors. Honestly, did you expect then to have that race pace they did today, because that’s been a strong point of the Mercedes over the past races? VB: We saw that we should have good race pace for today and we believed we could do it. We really need to raise our game in the qualifyings now but race pace is OK and I had fun.
Q: Charles, the perfect storm happened for Ferrari. Obviously they lost a car through reliability and you finished in P3. I know you’re going to be critical at how it happened but at the same time that’s a podium finish? Charles Leclerc: Yeah, I mean at least we are quite consistent. It’s good to be back on the podium. It’s a shame for the team not to have the second car up here, but yeah, on our side an OK-ish race. Mercedes are still very quick in the race runs, a lot quicker than compared to qualifying. So we need to work on that, to try to understand and improve that for the next races.
Q: We heard you on the team radio saying that you wanted to swap back, Sebastian didn’t stick to the rules, obviously something was discussed before. Are you starting to lose trust with that, that something wasn’t followed? CL: I will always trust the team. The tactic was me giving the slipstream to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened. But then… I don’t know, I need to speak with the team to know better the situation.
Q: OK, and on to the next one. You can look back and the race performance has certainly has been increased, hasn’t it? CL: Yeah, we were quite quick. I think we definitely had the pace to finish in front of Valtteri but it was quite tricky to follow. As soon as I was getting around 1.5s behind him everything would overheat and it would be quite a difficult time for us. Third today was the best we could have done unfortunately with the safety car.
Q: Lewis, a huge day for you and the team. Just tell us before the start of this race, how confident were you? LH: To win the race? I don’t think we were particularly confident. We knew that we were on obviously tyre and we put ourselves on a slightly different strategy in that respect and I was hoping that was going to give us an opportunity to dice and fight with them at some stage through the race. But before the race we sat down and we were like, our estimations of whether the soft tyres will last or not, either we’ll be correct or they’ll be correct. And ultimately, I think they were right, because the soft tyre was much stronger than we anticipated. Obviously there was that difference between the compounds, so keeping up with the softs, with their consistency and their speed, was… Oh God, it was so hard. So I wasn’t expecting that. There was obviously that slight tail-off towards the end where I was able to start closing the gap but it wasn’t massive chunks out that I was taking out of them but then were obviously able to extend, we were planning to extend for like 15-plus laps or something like that and hoping that when we came back out on the soft we would have the chance to fight with one of them who is on a different tyres. Obviously safety car and all those things came into it. Valtteri did an exceptional job, because it’s not easy keeping the Ferraris behind and Charles has been driving so well, so ultimately just an incredible day for the team considering the challenges that we have had. I think this weekend we knew that we had have to pull more out of this car and there was more potential there, but we didn’t know where it was. I think we pulled ourselves a little bit closer to the Ferraris this weekend and it was just enough to get ahead of them.
Q: And you got swamped by the Ferraris at the start. Was that the result of you being on the mediums and them on the softs? LH: I think partly. When we did the laps to the grid, I didn’t have a lot of grip, I don’t know about Valtteri, but I was a bit worried. And then obviously we definitely lost a little bit from the initial phase but then I wasn’t able to get to the tow because he stayed on the left and gave Seb the tow. I tried to sneak in behind Seb but there was a McLaren there so I had no tow down to Turn 1 and I nearly lost another place. After that it was just trying to keep up with them, but it was like trying to do qualifying laps every lap trying to keep up with them because they were so fast. Massive challenge but one I’m really proud of, really proud of everyone and I hope that everyone back at the factory is able to relax for a second but then come back and work hard tomorrow, because we still have plenty of races to go and a lot of challenges ahead of us.
Q: Valtteri, great performance from you today, fourth on the grid to second. How much pressure were you under from Charles in that last phase of the race? VB: Yeah, for sure, it’s never easy. I think they had a strong car today, good pace and, as we’ve seen this year, they’ve been extra quick on the straights. So I knew if they get close enough, especially in Sector Three, they are going to be a big threat into Turn Two. Just really had to try to keep it together, try to minimise the mistakes and, you know, the car felt pretty decent today, especially with the soft tyre in the corners. So, try to really maximise everything I could in the corners, and try to get a good Sector Three and good exit out of the last corner and that way I could keep the position. But yeah, to be in that position beforehand, I think the team did all the right things today. Already the decision yesterday to start on the mediums to go long in the first stint, you know then, at certain points when you go long in the first stint, you start to hope for that VSC or Safety Car to come – and today it came. Like a miracle. So, that’s always good. So, yeah, bit better feeling than yesterday for sure.
Q: Charles, congratulations on third place – but it was a complicated afternoon for Ferrari. Can we just go back to the start. Can you just tell us about this agreement that was in place between yourself and team-mate Sebastian? CL: I think everything was respected. At the start, obviously I went to the left to give Seb the slipstream. I knew he would overtake. We knew that. Then we just had to do the swap back, and we did it at the pit stop later on in the race and yeah, then our race went downwards. As soon as Seb had the issue, the Safety Car didn’t come at a great time for us and, yeah, everything was more complicated from then on.
Q: Charles, just to clarify, so you’d agreed to stay to the left and Sebastian was expecting you to hold that side of the track to get the tow. Is that what was agreed? CL: I mean, staying to the left whatsoever… If there was Lewis and Seb side-by-side I obviously had to advantage Seb and not Lewis, which is normal. So yeah, that is what was agreed.
Q: And how surprised were you that Sebastian didn’t swap back immediately? CL: I don’t know. I think the situation was quite tricky. There was a Safety Car straight away, so then it was quite difficult. I tried to stay as close as I possibly could for two or three laps but then it was very difficult to follow, especially first and second sector. Tyres overheated and then I dropped back a little bit. But then I was, as I said on the radio, I had one hundred per cent trust in the team to do it themselves, as it was agreed before the race, and that’s what they did at the pitstop.
Q: And any reliability concerns for you after Seb’s engine problem? CL: I don’t think so. I don’t know. I actually don’t even know what is the issue. First I need to speak with the team but I don’t think there was any concern on my side.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Charles, you mentioned there having one hundred per cent faith in the team to sort the situation, and you did it at the pit stops but obviously the team needed to get involved to sort that. Do you have the trust in Seb after this to honour team agreements? And to the Mercedes drivers, you’ve talked about how good your relationship is, and how hard you work for one-another in the team. How damaging would it be to that relationship if one of you openly didn’t follow a team order? LC: Yeah, I think the trust doesn’t change and we need to trust each other, Seb and myself, because I think it’s usually important for the benefit of the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car, and vice versa – I mean in both ways. So yeah. I think it’s very important but yes, the trust is still here.
Lewis? LH: I mean we work together, so it’s about having respect. And I think the respect has been there since day one. We talk about the scenarios very openly. Valtteri has always been respectful in all those scenarios and I think it’s vital that we’re both acting accordingly, which we do, I think.
Valtteri, anything to add? VB: No, that’s fine.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Charles. Do you think if Seb would have given you the place earlier, you could have fought for the win? CL: Not if the Safety Car would have been the same – I mean at the same time. To be honest, that was our main… the main thing that went wrong today was this. But this is nothing we could have done. It’s a shame for the team because I believe we had the potential to do very good today and, yeah, with the Safety Car at that time of the race, was not great for us. Yeah, that’s it.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for you Charles. You said you gave Seb the tow. Does that mean you could have done anything differently if you would have fought against him? CL: I actually had absolutely no reason to fight because, as I said, I trusted completely in the fact that we will swap back after, so there was no need to take any risks at that time, and yeah, that’s why I just didn’t fight.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Charles, do you think the second pit stop was not too optimistic – because at the end you lost the position with Valtteri? CL: I think it was a tricky situation. Because obviously staying on mediums that had already five or six laps, compared to softs that were new. Especially for a restart after the Safety Car. We are, I think, everyone on the grid is struggling to keep these tyres in temperature any time we are behind a Safety Car. If you are on a Medium, already it’s a disadvantage, and if it’s a bit worn, then it’s another disadvantage. So, we didn’t want to take the risk to lose more than one position. I think we did the right choice. Looking back, you can always think about a better scenario – but at that time I think it was the right decision for us.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) For the two Mercedes drivers. Lewis, at the start, you could stay within three seconds of Seb. Was that the limit for keeping the tyres alive and going for as long as possible – or you couldn’t get any closer. And to Valtteri, exactly the opposite. After the restart was the priority just to keep Charles behind, or you couldn’t get closer to Lewis because you didn’t have the pace? LH: I think that was probably the limit. I was on the Medium tyre; they had the advantage with the Softer tyre which is quite a bit quicker. And then secondly, when you’re towing, two seconds is quite hard to follow. So yeah, I think I dropped back to around 3.3s or 3.5s, but I was trying to keep up. I wasn’t managing it, that’s for sure! They were just pulling away initially, and I think once we got to like, 15 or 18 or whatever it was, I started to be able to keep up with them a little bit better and as their tyres started to drop off a little bit, I was able to then start making some headway, and start taking time out of their gap.
Valtteri? VB: I think at that point we were on a similar tyre with Lewis, same car. For me the priority was definitely to try to keep Charles behind. For sure I was trying in the beginning. If I could get a chance at the restart of the Safety Car and the first lap, but there was no way. So, I was trying to balance out in the first few laps to push hard enough to keep Charles behind and, at the same time, try and leave a little bit of margin to Lewis. Because when you follow very close behind obviously you slide and destroy the tyres easier. So, I think the few seconds gap I had most of the second stint at the end was ideal. I Could get a bit of a tow effect on the straights and not too much sliding in the corners. So, that’s pretty ideal. But I have to say, Lewis was very quick today and, especially the first stint, I don’t know why, I didn’t have the pace to match. Second stint was a lot better.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) There’s been a fair amount of concern and criticism raised by the drivers over the direction of the 2021 rules and how much you guys have heard. We know that Chase and Ross gave you a bit more of an update this weekend. Do you feel a bit more informed now? Would you like a little bit more inclusion, even away from the meetings that you’ve attended with the FIA? LH: I think it’s been a huge step for us to be involved, it’s a big step for all the drivers to be united and I think we’re building a new and better relationship with the FIA, the GPDA and the FIA communicating and I think they’ve been quite open. I think there are things that we ask about and they are like ‘we can’t change it now’ but there’s no such thing as can’t for an engineer. There’s lots of things that can be improved but the thing they did show us the other day is that the amount that you lose behind a car today… what their simulations say that we will lose in terms of downforce behind the new car… I think it looks great, so I’m working as hard as I can to make sure I can stay around for then and get to drive those newer cars. And naturally we don’t want the cars to be slower either – I think they said they’re two or three seconds off so hopefully we can push that forward but some things like weight, we don’t want the car to get heavier but it is going in that direction. But I know they’re working really hard at it. VB: Yeah, I think, as Lewis said, it’s a good start that we are closer to them and they are actually sharing the ideas with us and I think we have a pretty good understanding when it comes to driving and racing and we’re always happy to give our opinion and I think we have the best understanding what makes us happy and what makes the racing better. It means happier fans and so on so for sure it’s nice to be involved and hope that that really continues. CL: Yeah, I completely agree. I think it’s very important that, as has been said, we are all united for the same goals. I think our ideas are clear, what we want and it’s important that we are involved because we just feel things that sometimes on the data doesn’t look the same way. It’s a good step.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, you’re 73 points clear of Valtteri, 107 clear of Charles now with just five races to go. Is it difficult, in your mind, not to think that you’ve already pretty much got this sixth world title? LH: I just don’t try to think about it. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s pretty easy just to focus on the task in hand and it’s not easy at the moment so honestly just focusing on trying to be the best I can be each weekend, one race at a time and making sure I’m just delivering at a high rate. What’s really impressive is just to see how naturally we’re fighting against the Ferraris who have got great pace but Charles, Valtteri, Seb, Max, Carlos, some of the other drivers are really performing so well. I think it’s one of the best years I’ve seen the drivers perform in terms of just class performances, so it’s meaning that everyone is having to raise their bar including myself. I’m enjoying that challenge and as I said, just one race at a time. The next one is going to be super hard to keep… to trying to beat these guys again but not impossible as we’ve shown today.
Q: (Doria Panova – motorlat) To the Mercedes drivers: another podium, congratulations, but obviously it wasn’t a perfect weekend for you, so what is your opinion about this Grand Prix and what areas do you think you need to improve? LH: Well, we’ve been very fortunate to have come to Russia and quite incredible performances for many years now. I think the Ferrari had the front row last year or the year before… VB: Year before… LH: …and obviously again incredible performance this weekend. I think we’ve done a good job today so it’s ended up being a good weekend but of course we were on the maximum limit and I think those guys are still quite dominant at the moment so it’s taken quite a special job from us today to pull out ahead of them. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve not spent a huge amount of time in Russia but the people seem so welcoming and just generally really nice people and I think that getting used to Formula One… you know, when you grow up I see Russia and you see the Kremlin in the movies and you see Moscow and it’s freezing and when I came out here, I didn’t even know that they had a seaside and it’s beautiful. I wake up and open my curtain and I see the sea. I have no clue what point of Russia I’m actually in but it’s obviously got a lot to offer. In terms of the racetrack, I think it’s growing on me and it’s obviously got the great straight. I think we can do better in making it somehow better for closer racing, because the corners are all so fast, it’s very very hard to follow as we are all saying. So perhaps in the future we might be able to make the corners tighter or something. I don’t know. VB: Yeah, definitely. I’ve always enjoyed coming here, it’s been pretty successful for me personally. I’ve had many podiums and my first ever win for me here so it’s a special place on that side and obviously neighbours with Finland. You say we didn’t have a perfect weekend but we had a perfect day today and it’s Sunday that really matters in Formula One, so happy days! But we definitely have work to do.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Lewis, you mentioned this a bit but Suzuka is a different kind of track but with Ferrari now being quick on the corners and possibly the Red Bull Hondas having no grid penalties, how tough is it going to be between all three of you and the other three drivers from the top teams? What balance do you expect there? LH: It’s going to be awesome. Suzuka is incredible, it’s one of the most exciting parts of the year and now so more than ever before because you’ve got three solid, incredibly fast teams, particularly pushing each other and having the ability, the potential to win a race. I have no idea who is going to be quickest there. Obviously, at the moment, Ferraris are quite dominant but maybe it will suit our car a little bit more, who knows? Or the Red Bull, maybe. So it’s exciting to go there because that’s a serious driver’s track, one of the best ones of the whole year. The tarmac run-off areas that you see here or around the world… it’s proper grass and gravel and walls so it’s the ultimate test, I would say, that track, for the car and also for the driver. I just hope that we get to have a good race there. VB: Yeah, look forward to it. Not much to add. I think it’s going to be exciting, good fight between three teams and between all the drivers and I really look forward to it. Personally, it is my favourite track if I had to chose one so it should be fun.
Q: Charles, how confident are you of Ferrari’s pace at Suzuka? CL: I think, as I’ve said earlier this week, we’ve been quick in Singapore, we’ve been quick in Monza and both of them are the complete opposites so I think it shows that we are doing some progress so there are no reasons for us to be very slow in Japan, but it doesn’t mean that we will have an easy life. I’m pretty sure that Mercedes and also Red Bull will be very strong there. I’ve only been to Suzuka once but it’s a track I loved, last year I took so much pleasure driving especially through the first sector. It was just a really great experience so I’m really looking forward to going back there. LH: It’s pretty incredible it’s your second year, only your second year. Already in Ferrari and he’s doing… is it four wins this year? CL: No, no, you are over-estimating me. No, two. LH: OK, anyway, that’s still pretty impressive. CL: Thanks man.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – motorlat) Charles, given Sebastian’s DNF today, how much of a concern is reliability to you at the moment? CL: As I’ve said, I don’t even know what the issue is so for now, I’ll speak with the engineers. I don’t think reliability has been an issue or a concern from the beginning of the year on our side so I don’t expect it to become one now but let’s see. I’ve got no idea what the issue is so I firstly need to speak with the team to understand what went wrong.
Mercedes report from the Russian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sochi Autodrome.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport claim a 1-2 victory at Sochi
Lewis claimed his 82nd win in Formula One, his eighth of the 2019 season and fourth at the Russian Grand Prix
Valtteri came home in second place after starting fourth on the grid, securing the eighth 1-2 for the team in 2019
Today’s result marks the 143rd race led for Lewis, breaking the record for most laps led
Lewis (322 points) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 73 points from Valtteri (249 points)
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (571 points) leads Ferrari (409 points) by 162 points in the Constructors’ Championship
Fred Judd, Chief Engineer Trackside, Mercedes-AMG High-Performance Powertrains, accepted the Constructors’ trophy on behalf of the team
Lewis Hamilton: “This win feels like it has been a long time coming and it was just an incredible job from the whole team: never giving up, pushing forward, always trying to be innovative. It’s incredibly inspiring to be part of that and amazing to have this result today considering how quick the Ferraris were in that opening stint.
“It was a really hard task to keep up with them, especially on the offset tyre, but we kept pushing and the car felt really good today. We thought that their soft tyres would drop off during that opening stint, but they had such good pace that I was struggling to keep up with them – and that’s probably a little warning for us, because it looked like they got their calculations right in that regard.
“I managed to stay within shooting distance, though, and started closing down the gap as their tyres started to drop. Charles pitted, then I started catching Seb, and we were in a good position to offset and go long – even had the Safety Car not come out, it would have been a really good race.
“Then everything fell our way, and after that it was a question of building the gap, saving the tyres but also getting to the finish as smoothly as possible. Looking ahead, of course the races are counting down but we are just trying to take things one race at a time, put one foot in front of the other and not stumble.
“When you have a battle like this, you’re working flat out, turning over every stone and questioning every little thing you can do better. We love that challenge and I’m really excited for the next races.”
Valtteri Bottas: “It’s been a while since we last had a 1-2 and it feels really good to stand up there on the podium together again. It’s really encouraging and motivating for the entire team. We knew a 1-2 would be tricky to achieve, but possible, so we spoke about all the different strategies that would give us a chance this morning.
“And I think we did a really good job as a team today. It’s a really good result if you think about how much we were struggling yesterday. Ferrari had a quick car all weekend long, I think they were quicker as well today, so to walk away with a 1-2 means that we did a great job as a team in all other areas.
“I lost quite a bit of time when I was stuck behind Sainz in the beginning and I was also struggling to match the times on the Medium tyres, but it was a lot better in the second stint on the Soft tyres. I was under a bit of pressure after the Safety Car restart, but it was all under control.
“Ferrari has made some good improvements in the past few weeks, so we know that we need to keep pushing for Japan, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Toto Wolff: “Today is one of those races that go to show the points are won on Sunday and not on Saturday – and that, most of all, you can never give up. We managed to take a one-two finish today even though we didn’t have the quickest package and that is a very special feeling.
“We started on the Medium tyre and one of the reasons we did that was to have the flexibility to stretch the opening stint – both to take advantage of a possible Safety Car after Ferrari had pitted, but also to have the option of using the Soft in the final stint. So we were running it long, hanging it out there a bit and then the race came right towards us with the VSC for Vettel’s failure.
“Both of our drivers did a fantastic job today: Lewis was relentless, keeping the pressure on and holding onto the Ferraris in the opening stint, then able to manage things well after the stop. As for Valtteri, we saw two years ago that he knows his way around this track with a Ferrari breathing down his neck, and he didn’t put a foot wrong this afternoon even with huge pressure from Leclerc.
“But even in the joy of this win, we must not lose sight of the fact that we didn’t have the best package here this weekend. We have some updates to come in Suzuka, but most of all we need to put our heads together over the coming days and understand how to maximise our package in Japan, so that we extract every bit of potential from it and come back stronger.”
James Allison: “It feels like an awkwardly long time since we last won a race – and this result is all the more welcome for that. This wasn’t an easy, dominating, commanding from the front type of victory – but when you are up against it and still manage to win, it actually feels really sweet.
“When we approached qualifying yesterday, we did so with the feeling that, wherever we qualified, we were unlikely to lead out of Turn 2 because of the long run from the start and the powerful slipstream effect. So running the Medium tyre in our opening stint gave us possibilities to recover and we were fortunate in how that played out.
“Both drivers put in immaculate performances today: Lewis was error-free throughout and Valtteri did a very good job controlling the gap to Leclerc and keeping him out of DRS range. He was under immense pressure, especially in the early laps after the Safety Car, and he didn’t stumble under a long period of sustained pressure.
“Well done to the entire team today, both here at track and back at the factories: after a tricky start to the weekend, it’s a special feeling to be heading home with the silverware and plenty of useful learning to be applied to the upcoming races.”
Vettel comfortably led the opening stint after some smart work from Ferrari on the long run down to Turn 2, with pole-sitter Charles Leclerc giving his teammate a tow and the pair emerging in the lead. Ferrari then spent much of the first part of the race working out how to switch the driver positions back; but Hamilton remained close enough and on a different strategy that it wasn’t a simple decision.
WATCH: Sebastian Vettel aces the start at the Russian Grand Prix, passing Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc after lights out
Ferrari opted to pit Leclerc first for medium tires and leave Vettel out longer on softs, losing some time to Hamilton — who had started on mediums — behind him before pitting on lap 26. While the timing succeeded in getting Leclerc back ahead due to his stop four laps earlier, Hamilton was now in the race lead.
But it all instantly unraveled as Vettel reported a loss of MGU-K, then rolled to a stop in the final sector on his out lap.
Vettel’s retirement brought out the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) and allowed Hamilton a free pit stop for soft tires, with the championship leader retaining the lead ahead of Leclerc. At the time, it was not enough for Bottas to move into second place as he pitted for softs and emerged in third; but then Ferrari made a strategic error to hand Mercedes a 1-2.
When the VSC ended, George Russell immediately crashed with some sort of car issue, and the Safety Car was deployed once again. Instead of celebrating the fact that Leclerc would be right behind Hamilton when the race restarted and on tires he could push hard to the end, Ferrari then pitted Leclerc for softs. But the team waited an extra lap before calling him in and gave up track position to Bottas as a result.
Behind, Max Verstappen had made solid progress through the field from ninth on the grid — passing Carlos Sainz for fifth place by lap 17 — and ended fourth, albeit nearly nine seconds behind. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Alexander Albon went from the pit lane to fifth, getting ahead of Carlos Sainz with six laps remaining, McLaren securing best-of-the-midfield runners status.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez made a good start to run in the top 10 for most of the race and overtook McLaren’s Lando Norris for seventh place shortly after the Safety Car restart, with Norris ending up eighth as Haas’ Kevin Magnussen — eighth on track — picked up a five-second time penalty for missing Turn 2 when defending from Perez.
Magnussen still picked up points in ninth while Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault came home 10th to score the final point as 15 drivers finished.
The retirements came early, as Ferrari’s strong start was immediately followed by a Safety Car when Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi tangled. The trio went three-wide into Turn 4 with the Alfa Romeo in the middle; and, as Giovinazzi tried to back out, he was squeezed from both sides, making contact with Grosjean’s left rear and Ricciardo’s right rear.
Vettel has taken the lead Grosjean is OUT Ricciardo has a puncture
Grosjean was pitched into the barrier and retired, triggeing the Safety Car, while Ricciardo picked up a puncture and damage that led to his retirement on lap 25.
The McLaren pair had made excellent starts as Sainz briefly moved into third place ahead of Hamilton before the braking zone for Turn 2, but settled into fourth and sixth until Bottas and Verstappen started making progress.
All eyes were on the front at that stage, as Vettel led Leclerc from the race restart and the two Ferrari drivers were told not to fight each other. Vettel was then instructed to let his teammate pass him as a result of their agreed plan at the start, but the German pushed on and Ferrari sensibly opted to try and address the order later in the race.
Leclerc had been calm on team radio but made clear he had held up his side of the bargain and followed orders at the start, so Vettel was arguably losing too much time to Hamilton as Ferrari kept him out front in the opening stint until it was clear Leclerc’s earlier stop would provide an undercut.
Ferrari’s race fell apart soon after as Vettel slowed with a loss of MGU-K power and stopped with a radio message of “bring back the f***ing V12s”, but it wasn’t the only team dealing with scrapping drivers as the two Toro Rossos went wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions into Turn 2.
Albon had been a part of that party but, after starting on medium tires, he benefited from the Safety Car to climb into the top 10 and his former team was left with two drivers fighting amongst themselves for P12.
Albon closes in on the dueling Toro Rossos. Image by Hone/LAT
Daniil Kvyat came out on top in 12th place as Pierre Gasly ended up 14th, outbraking himself into Turn 2 when trying to overtake and dropping a further place to Kimi Raikkonen, the Alfa Romeo driver having served a drive-through penalty for a false start. Gasly at least adhered to instructions when rejoining the track, but it was an incident that would prove costly for Magnussen.
The Haas driver was running as high as sixth after the Safety Car but dropped behind Albon, and then went straight on at Turn 2 as Perez attacked. Magnussen lost the position but did not go around the bollards as instructed when rejoining, resulting in a five-second time penalty that dropped him a second behind Norris at the flag.
Lewis Hamilton successfully battled his way to victory in the 2019 Russian Grand Prix, his fourth career win in Sochi and his ninth victory of the season. He finished ahead of his team mate Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes 1-2.
Hamilton had dropped to third place at the start, but reemerged on top after taking advantage of a virtual safety car to make his pit stop. Polesitter Charles Leclerc took the final podium place following a stormy afternoon for Ferrari.
Ferrari’s strategy to help Sebastian Vettel take the lead at the start had resulted in a dispute about team orders when he was ordered to swap positions with Leclerc, but the issue became moot when Vettel was forced to retire with MGU-K failure shortly after he made his mid-race pit stop.
It was a dry, sunny day in Sochi on Sunday. More importantly it was warmer than it had been so far all weekend, which meant that Mercedes’ gambit of being the only team in the top ten to opt for medium compound tyres was looking like a potentially good call. It would all depend on what happened in the run down to turn 1 when the lights went out.
Pole sitter Charles Leclerc got a solid launch and was able to fend off Lewis Hamilton down the straight, but neither man was a match for Sebastian Vettel who slipstreamed past them both to take the lead in turn 1. Hamilton nearly lost another spot when he was challenged by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who had already dispatched Valtteri Bottas, but the Briton was just able to hold on to position as the cars slotted into single file.
The fight for position was suspended by the safety car being scrambled, after a midfield compression saw Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi go three-wide into turn 4. The Haas was spun round and into a heavy broadside impact with the outside tyre wall forcing an instant retirement, while the Renault limped back to pit lane with a left rear puncture needing attention; however, extensive floor damage from the clash would eventually force him to retire from the race. Giovinazzi also needed to pit for a new front wing, while elsewhere his Alfa Romeo team mate Kimi Raikkonen was handed a drive-thru penalty for a false start.
At the restart on lap 4 it was Vettel leading Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz, Bottas and Lando Norris, with Sergio Perez up to seventh ahead of Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. No one was able to make any immediate improvement as the safety car peeled in and the cars got back up to speed, but by lap 7 Bottas had the measure of Sainz and made short work of passing the McLaren down the straight to retrieve fourth place. A lap later it was Verstappen’s turn to gain a place with a pass on Perez into turn 4.
At the front Vettel had pulled well out of DRS range of Leclerc. However there were a flurry of messages over the Ferrari team radio indicating that the team was orchestrating a swap between their two drivers to put Leclerc back in front. The implication was that Leclerc’s slower start had been in line with a pre-planned team strategy to give Vettel a tow, with the assurance that he would get the lead back once things settled down. But with the two Mercedes drivers in close pursuit, Vettel was unwilling to slow up and risk getting ambushed and so he kept his foot down and stayed out of reach at the front. The effort in Leclerc’s voice not to let his anger show was apparent, as the team eventually backed down and decided to delay any swap until later in the race. In the meantime, Vettel floored it and was soon pulling away from the field with a succession of fastest laps that suggested tyre wear on the soft compound was not proving to be a consideration after all.
Verstappen needed no help from the Red Bull pit wall to continue his progress through the order. He dived down the inside of turn 2 to pick up sixth place from Norris on lap 12, and immediately set his sights on Sainz who by now was three seconds down the road. It took him five laps to cut the gap and make short work of the Spaniard on lap 17 to climb to fifth place, having started from ninth on the grid due to engine penalties. His team mate Alexander Albon was also on the move after starting from pit lane due to repairs on his car following his Q1 accident on Saturday; a DRS pass on Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat into turn 13 put him up to 12th with Pierre Gasly next on his to-do list, which he soon ticked off despite a potentially worrying problem with his brakes: “I’m absolutely smashing the pedal,” he reported.
Hulkenberg was the first of the top ten to make a scheduled pit stop on lap 17, with Norris extending his own first stint until lap 21 before pitting a lap before Sainz. Their immediately improved pace encouraged Ferrari to react by bringing Leclerc in from second place on lap 23, the Monegasque rejoining in fourth in the big on-track gap between Bottas and Verstappen.
Now the clock was ticking on how long it would take Vettel to make his own stop. On lap 24 he reported that his rears were falling off, but pace-wise he was still a match for both of the two Mercedes cars. Ferrari finally called him in on lap 27 and it was a slightly slower stop than Leclerc, all of which proved sufficient to enable Leclerc to finally pick up that promised track position. However seconds later the entire issue became moot as Vettel reported a loss of MGU-K power, forcing him to pull over and retire on lap 28.
A virtual safety car to enable track workers to retrieve the expired SF90 meant that most of the cars yet to stop now had the opportunity to dive into pit lane, including the two Mercedes drivers. The VSC advantage allowed Hamilton to come back out in the lead on soft tyres, seeming vindication of Mercedes’ decision to start on the medium compound to give them greater flexibility when it came to their race strategy.
The race had barely gone back to green flag conditions when George Russell suffered brake failure and ran nose-first into the tyre wall at turn 8, making it the second consecutive retirement of the season for the rookie. His Williams team mate Robert Kubica was also immediately retired by the team as a precautionary measure.
The latest incident triggered a second full safety car which allowed Albon to pit, and Ferrari realised that they now faced a serious issue with Leclerc who was on older medium tyres while those around them were on the fresher, softer and faster compound. Leclerc was summoned to pit lane for his second stop on lap 31 to give him a fighting chance in the closing laps, even if it meant dropping to third behind Bottas in the meantime.
The race finally got back underway on lap 33 with Hamilton and Bottas leading Leclerc, Verstappen, Sainz, Magnussen, Norris, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, and Albon now rounding out the top ten. Even with DRS temporarily deactivated following the caution, Albon immediately cleared the two Racing Point cars at the restart, while at the front Leclerc got straight down to business pressuring Bottas for second place. The Finn however was able to parry the advances despite the Ferrari’s well-established straight-line speed, and he successfully stayed in front even when DRS was eventually turned on again.
While it was status quo at the front, there was plenty of action further back as Hulkenberg passed Stroll into for tenth place and the two Toro Rossos scrapped over 12th place, resulting in Gasly overrunning turn 2. It required him to slalom his way through the controversial bollards, which allowed Raikkonen to fly past at the exit. Albon meanwhile was enjoying his late switch to the soft compound and had made quick work on Norris, and was now turning up the heat on Magnussen for sixth place. That deed was finally done on lap 43.
Hamilton succeeded in opening out a gap at the front and was now assured of victory. It was a different story as Bottas and Leclerc continued to fight over second, but the Finn ultimately proved immovable all the way to the finish. Leclerc also narrowly failed to overcome Hamilton in the duel over the bonus point for fastest lap.
Verstappen just missed out on a podium in fourth followed by Albon who made a successful late move on Sainz for fifth place – a strong result for the rookie given his pit lane start. The rest of the points went to Sainz, Perez, Norris, Magnussen and Hulkenberg, after Magnussen was handed a five second penalty for gaining an advantage by going off track at turn 2 in the closing laps. Missing out this week were Stroll, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Gasly and Giovinazzi with five retirements in total including Kubica, Russell, Vettel, Ricciardo and Grosjean.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was gifted victory at the Russian Grand Prix as Ferrari messed up a race which was theirs to win but instead lost, and furthermore added more fuel to the rivalry between their drivers.
It was a race of two halves with Sebastian Vettel stealing the lead in the drag to Turn 1 from the start, with pole starting teammate Charles Leclerc chasing. That’s how it remained until just over the halfway mark.
Meanwhile, the Ferrari pit were commanding Vettel to allow Leclerc past but the German remained upfront delivering a blistering pace that his teammate struggled to match.
The obvious call, without making it the drama it became, was to allow Leclerc to undercut, which is exactly what they did eventually. Vettel emerged from his stop behind Leclerc but with much fresher tyres.
Then it all came to an end as Vettel reported a “K-failure” and was told to park the car which he did. His race was over, his only reward was Driver-of-the-Day as voted by fans.
A virtual safety car ensued and became a full safety car when the brakes failed on the hopeless Williams of George Russell. He crunched into the wall.
Mercedes pitted their pair upfront, while Ferrari took a lap longer to bring in Leclerc and that made the difference. When he emerged he was behind the silver cars in third where he remained despite a number of attempts the Ferrari could not find a way past.
Leclerc said afterwards, “At least we are quite consistent. It’s good to be back on the podium – a shame for the team to not have the second car up here. On our side an OK race, Mercedes are still very quick on the race runs, a lot quicker compared to qualifying.
“I will always trust the team but the tactic was me giving the slipstream to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened but then I… I don’t know. I need to speak to the team to know the situation better,” added the Ferrari driver.
Thus Hamilton scored an unlikely victory which takes him a step closer to a sixth F1 world title, with Bottas making it a one-two and thus ending Ferrari’s three-race streak. Leclerc was third on a day his team again shot themselves in the foot.
Hamilton said afterwards, “It’s incredible to have this result today considering how quick [Ferrari] were off the start. Just keeping up with them was the real incredibly hard task. But we haven’t given up and we keep pushing. Honestly, I try not to think about the championship. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other – we don’t want to stumble.”
Ferrari’s implosion should not detract from what Mercedes achieved without the best car. They lacked the firepower a day earlier, but that potent race pace remains and this was evident with Hamilton hammering the fastest lap too. The bounced back in champion style, that their rivals helped cannot be denied.
The Red Bulls were mighty on an afternoon in which both their drivers started out of position, with Max Verstappen turning ninth on the grid to fourth place, and rookie Alex Albon was stellar as he turned a pitlane start to fifth place.
It is a shame that penalties dogged them because Verstappen might have been in the mix, while Albon improving with every outing and ticking all the boxes on his checklist making a strong case to be retained by the team for 2020.
It was good to see McLaren battling at the sharp end, the orange cars among the silver cars must ahve warmed the hearts of their fans, but in the end the Big Three had too much firepower.
Nevertheless, Carlos Sainz again did his shares the world of good with a solid drive to end Best-of-the-Rest in sixth, with rookie Lando Norris again mighty for a rookie on his way to eighth. A strong showing from the upwardly mobile Woking outfit.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez in seventh split the pair on the results-sheet and showing his worth in a race of attrition which always brings out the best from the Mexican veteran.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was ninth on an afternoon he maximised his opportunities when the safety car played in his favour. A five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage cost the Dane eighth place.
In contrast, his teammate Romain Grosjean had a familiar early shower for again being involved in a first lap fracas.
Nico Hulkenberg was tenth on a day that Renault underperformed when much was expected of them. They were soundly beaten by their customers and their woes compounded by Daniel Ricciardo’s shunt with Grosjean and the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi which was the prosciutto in the Renault/Haas sandwich.
Formula 2 Statement: Nobuharu Matsushita and Nikita Mazepin have both been confirmed as uninjured following their heavy collision in today’s Sprint Race.
The duo collided during the opening lap of the race, which brought out a red flag. Mazepin was able to get out of the car himself, while Matushita was helped out by the medical crews.
They were both conscious and taken to Sochi hospital for precautionary checks, which have revealed that they are both well.
Nikita Mazepin has been declared fit following these checks. Scans for Nobuharu Matsushita revealed no injuries, however he will remain in the hospital overnight for another precautionary scan tomorrow.
Mercedes AMG F1 has fired four workers and its Brackley headquarters after an internal investigation revealed a beach of the team’s diversity and equality policy.
According to British tabloid The Sun, the four workers, who were dismissed in early August and apparently worked in the IT department, had engaged in a racist bullying campaign against a Muslin employee
“We condemn this behaviour in the strongest terms and acted immediately upon the complaint,” said Mercedes in a statement.
“We value the diversity of our employees and it is a source of strength for our team. Our working environment is based upon appreciation and mutual respect.”
Luca Ghiotto claimed a third victory of 2019, with a defiant defensive display in the Sprint Race, fending off an unrelenting attack from champion Nyck de Vries, who secured a 12th podium of an incredible campaign.
The ART Grand Prix ace finished second ahead of Sauber Junior Team by Charouz’s Callum Ilott.
The race was interrupted by a collision between Nikita Mazepin and Nobuharu Matsushita. It has since been confirmed that both drivers are fine.
Mazepin had started on reverse grid pole and got off the line smoothly, much to the delight of his home crowd in Sochi. The Russian had brushed off an initial attack from Jack Aitken, before the duo were forced off track and onto the tarmac.
The Brit from Campos attempted to return to the track safely, around the signposts, but was cut up by Mazepin, who subsequently clipped Aitken’s tyres. This flung the Russian into the path of Matsushita and the duo collided, slamming into the wall. The collision brought out a red flag and the race was subsequently shortened to 15 laps due to time constraints.
When action got back underway, it was Ghiotto out in front, ahead of Ilott and De Vries. The Italian raced away unopposed, but the Briton wasn’t as lucky, as he was unable to defend from the power of De Vries’ ART machine, who darted down the left of him on the pit straight. Ilott attempted to put up a fight, keeping pace with the Champion until the end of the third corner, when De Vries finally made the move stick.
Taking advantage of their battle, Ghiotto stretched his lead to 2.6s, before easing off on his degrading Pirelli rubber. De Vries quickly cut into this and got back to within DRS range, forcing the Italian on to the defensive.
Little changed in the order behind them. Guanyu Zhou managed to nab fifth from Sérgio Sette Câmara, while Giuliano Alesi squeezed himself into the points, at the expense of Artem Markelov.
De Vries was dogged in his pursuit of Ghiotto out in the front, but the Italian continued to fend him off, despite the DRS advantage. The Italian eventually forced himself past the chequered flag in first, ahead of De Vries and Ilott. Latifi and Zhou completed the top five, followed by Sette Câmara, Sean Gelael and Alesi.
De Vries ends his Championship winning weekend with 266 points, ahead of Latifi on 194. Thanks to his third win of the season, Ghiotto has sliced the gap between them down to just 10 points, ahead of Sette Câmara on 165. Aitken completes the top five on 159 points.
The fight for the Teams’ Championship continues, as DAMS remain top on 359 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 206. ART Grand Prix are third with 276, Carlin fourth on 200 and Campos Racing fifth with 189.
The fight for second will recommence in Yas Marina at the end of November, while DAMS will look to secure the Teams’ Championship.
Ferrari may have caught up with Mercedes already, but the Italian team is already looking ahead to 2020 Formula 1 season as this championship is all but done and dusted.
At Sochi, Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole for the fourth time in a row – the first such achievement for the Maranello team since Michael Schumacher in 2001.
“I really don’t want to think about those kinds of stats for now,” 21-year-old Leclerc said. “I just want to focus on the job.”
But it seems that his job is now to chase down Lewis Hamilton for the world championship. Leclerc is the highest-placed Ferrari driver, a huge 96 points behind the top Mercedes.
Team boss Mattia Binotto is delighted with Ferrari’s young charger, who is now managing to consistently outpace quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
“The reason for the current difference to Vettel? I would say the young age,” Binotto is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It would be amazing to put Seb from ten years ago in that car to challenge Charles. It would be a nice comparison.”
That may be so, but Leclerc does not think he can win the 2019 world championship, “We are having really good performances but at the end it doesn’t change that Mercedes are still quite ahead in the overall championship. That in the end is what matters the most.”
In Russia, Binotto told reporters is happy that, having calmly weathered all the talk of a new Ferrari ‘crisis’ earlier in 2019, the team now has arguably the fastest car, “We took a big step forward in Singapore, but we were very curious to see how the improvements would be here.
Binotto said catching Mercedes makes him “very happy”, but like Leclerc he acknowledges that the title is a big ask with just five races to go after Sunday.
“We have shifted our attention to the 2020 Ferrari,” he revealed. “If we do bring any changes to the current car, they certainly will not be as extensive as in Singapore.”
Mercedes’ points advantage may be significant, but the German team is worried that for the first time in the entire ‘power unit’ era, it is no longer clearly in front.
“These guys have some crazy speeds on the straights,” Hamilton said after qualifying. “That whole party mode you talked about us having, well I think they’ve got jet mode!”
Silver Arrows team boss Toto Wolff calls the updated Ferrari a “perfect package”.
“We need to understand what exactly is making the Ferrari better,” he added. “Only then can we take such a big step because normally you do not even win 1 per cent from one year to the next.”
As for the 2019 title, Hamilton denied that he is scared of losing it by the Abu Dhabi finale in December and told Blick, “I wouldn’t go that far.
“But we definitely can’t be relaxed. It’s a serious situation for us and any of us who are not feeling pain has no place in this business. The fact that it’s close now is good for the sport, but not for our high standards,” added the five-time F1 World Champion.
Formula 1 chiefs Chase Carey and Ross Brawn sat down with the drivers in Russia to address their convcerns over potential changes in the future to the sport’s weekend format.
Formula 1’s managers are seeking to spice up the action on the track going forward and they’ve tabled the idea of experimenting next year with various concepts such as qualifying races on Saturday or reverse grids.
However, a few prominent drivers are not impressed with the suggestions that have been brought forth so far, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel calling the reverse grid “complete bullshit”, while Lewis Hamilton wondered if those in charge “know what they are talking about”.
Carey and Brawn took the opportunity to meet with the drivers at Sochi at the regular Friday evening drivers’ briefing.
Once again, the pair emphasized the experimental nature of the trials that could take place at a handful of events in 2020.
“They might want to do some experiments, but they didn’t say they are going to do a Saturday race,” said Max Verstappen, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“But I think it’s good they come to us and just explain it very well. That’s what the meeting was basically about, not ‘we’re going to do this and this’.
“These are the ideas, we’re coming to you guys now to explain what is happening or is maybe happening, just to let you guys know we’re really trying our best to make it better.
“The drivers, we really feel what is going on in the car or what it’s lacking. So, I think it would be good if we could be more involved in it.”
Mercedes Valtteri Bottas said a “good chat” had taken place, and that no drastic decisions would be taken without a the drivers being properly consulted.
“We had a good chat yesterday with Chase and Ross, they were explaining the thinking behind it,” said the Finn..
“They were just going through all the ideas and possibilities, and we asked as drivers to be kind of talked to about it because we have a pretty good view of what we think would make the racing good or not.
“Before they make decisions they agreed to talk to us and have our opinions.
“So that is nice because it’s just one thing we don’t want as drivers, if they make a decision suddenly without us knowing and being already knowing it’s not going to work.”
Haas’ Romain Grosjean agreed that the drivers should be an integral part of the decision process.
“I just think we have a certain amount of expertise and we have a very specific way of looking at things, and we’re the only ones who really have that view, because a lot of these other guys in the decision-making have never driven a race car,” said the Frenchman.
“So I think it’s good and I think it was very good yesterday to see Ross and Chase come and open up to us, and kind of give and get some feedback.
“And I think hopefully there’ll be more of that in the future, and hopefully they will use us drivers are a bit more and have us influence a bit more.”
Newly crowned Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries is not writing off his chances of racing in Formula 1 after the 24-year-old Dutchman wrapped up the title at Sochi, having raced in the category since 2017.
But he is not stepping up to Formula 1 next year. Instead, Mercedes has signed him up for the new works Formula E team.
“The current Formula 1 market is completely blocked,” de Vries told Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “There is no realistic chance for me there.
“Of course I dreamt of Formula 1 as a little boy, but that dream didn’t take me all the way there. Still, I am the F2 champion and not many people can say that.”
Some believe de Vries’ 2019 achievement is not spectacular, given the level of talent in the field this year and the fact that it is his third season in F2.
“People will always have their opinion, but I don’t think I need to be ashamed of this title,” he insisted. Look at my career next to Albon’s. He didn’t become champion here or even runner-up.”
“Lewis, Leclerc and Max are the very best. All three of them stand out. But the rest, I grew up with them. Sometimes one of them won, the next time the other. Take Lando Norris, who won one race in Formula 2 last year compared to my three.”
Still, de Vries is not ruling out launching into F1 at a later date, “Nothing is impossible. I think Mercedes will supply engines to several teams in the future. But that’s looking too far ahead. I am grateful for the opportunity I have now and who knows what the future holds.”
Also at Sochi, Russian Robert Shwartzman wrapped up the Formula 3 title. He is strongly backed by Ferrari and has been linked with a role at Alfa Romeo.
“I have not personally communicated with anyone from Formula 1, that’s for my managers,” he told Izvestia news agency. “Alfa Romeo? I don’t know anything about that.”