The Finnish driver bagged his second Formula 1 race win this season at Sochi.
The fate of the Russian GP turned quite dramatically on Sunday. Namely, Lewis Hamilton got two 5-sec penalties for not following race director Michael Masi’s instructions concerning practice starts. On lap 7, the FIA announced the penalties against the champion. Naturally, he wasn’t pleased and saw them as a means to prevent Mercedes’ dominance.
The start at Sochi was chaotic. Carlos Sainz of McLaren crashed while taking the designated path into turn 3. Moments later, another incident at the exit of turn 4, where Lance Stroll shunted into the wall after contact with Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. Subsequently, the race marshals put out a yellow flag and deployed the safety car.
Hamilton then entered the pitlane on lap 16. After serving his penalties and swapping his soft tires for a brand-new set of hard compounds, he rejoined the race and found himself down in 11th place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
“This is just ridiculous, man,” said the 6-time Formula 1 Championship winner on the team radio.
At that moment, Bottas comfortably led the Russian GP with a 3.7sec gap to Max Verstappen. Being in the same car as Lewis, the Finn hadn’t had much luck this year. He only won one race compared to his team mate’s six.
Hamilton then made a very impressive comeback from 11th place to 3rd in less than 15 laps. Meanwhile, Valtteri was way ahead in the lead with Max 13sec behind. Hamilton had his work cut out, though, since he was 20sec behind Verstappen with older tires.
The podium didn’t change until the end, with Bottas winning for a second time this season, ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton. The Finn got an extra point for the fastest lap, while Max got the “Driver of the Day” award.
After Sunday’s penalties, Lewis Hamilton is two more penalties away (until the end of 2020 season) from a race ban.
Team Principal Toto Wolff defended his team, saying, “The race director’s notes say, if I’m well informed, that you must do practice start after the lights on the right side of the pit lane, and that’s what happened… so we agree to disagree on that one.” Wolff called the penalty “far-fetched” while still respecting the stewards in their job.
Note from the editor: After this article has been published, Mercedes took responsibility for the false starts and the two penalties were wiped off Hamilton’s record.