It was a sad day for motorsport fans on Sunday at the 2018 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.
Mercedes-AMG’s Valtteri Bottas ceded his leading position to teammate Lewis Hamilton on team orders, thus denying the Finn a second win in the race where he made his maiden victory one year ago.
Bottas ended the race 2.545 seconds behind Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claiming the third spot on the podium 7.487 seconds behind the winner.
Bottas, who isn’t a contender for the championship this season, said in a statement that he understood the team’s reasoning but that it was still a tough day for him.
“For the end of the year, it’s only Lewis fighting for the Championship, I am not,” Bottas said. “So, for the team, it is always better that Lewis wins—that’s how it goes.”
Rain before the start caught everyone’s attention, as a few drops fell on the grid while the sun still shone. Bottas was on pole with Hamilton by his side. After the lights turned green, Vettel tucked into Hamilton’s slipstream, getting alongside at Turn 1, but the German was unable to get past his British rival as they hit the braking area.
Bottas pitted on lap 13 and Vettel followed immediately. Upon exiting the pits, Vettel raced hard to narrow the gap with Hamilton. It paid off as when Hamilton had to pit he found himself, much to his surprise, behind Vettel upon exiting. The two men engaged in battle, but the Mercedes man managed to retake second place.
However, Hamilton’s hard drive caused more wear on his tires which were starting to blister at this point. With Vettel on Hamilton’s heels, Mercedes on lap 25 gave the team order to Bottas to slow and let his teammate past, revealing the real threat Ferrari is making Mercedes feel this season.
There were few other dramas in the race but Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen put on an exciting show on what was his 21st birthday. The Dutch youngster was in the lead in the earlier part of the race due to staying on his original tire, but after his pit stop he returned to the action in fifth. He tried to fight Ferrari’s other man Kimi Räikkönen for fourth but couldn’t get past by the end.
Hamilton now enjoys a 50-point advantage over Vettel in the 2018 Drivers’ Championship, with only five races to go. Hamilton’s tally stands at 306 points versus the 256 of Vettel. Bottas is third with 189 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes sits on 495 points versus the 442 of Ferrari and 292 of Red Bull.
The next race on the calendar is the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.