Bottas cashed in on Hamilton’s technical error on a day when the latter could have equalled Schumacher’s record of 91 F1 wins
Valtteri Bottas made the most of a 10-second penalty to his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to win the 2020 Formula One Russian Grand Prix on Sunday. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the second spot on the podium, with Hamilton finishing third.
Despite grabbing his 96th pole on Saturday and starting at the front of the grid at the Sochi Autodrom, Hamilton ended up getting two penalties of five seconds each for pre-race practice start violations, which he served in the pit lane in the 17th lap. That pegged him back to 11th in the race and he only managed to get back to the podium positions in lap 32, from where he held on to third place till the end.
The 35-year-old British driver started proceedings impressively though, surviving an early drag race and fending off a strong attack from Bottas, who also won on this track in 2017. Interestingly, Bottas had started third on the grid —like he did on Sunday—back then as well. Clearly, starting at pole on this circuit is not always an advantage. An early skirmish saw McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll crash out of the race and the introduction of the safety car in the opening lap.
Hamilton was informed about his penalties by lap 8 and as soon as he pitted in lap 17, it became clear that it would be difficult for him to match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 F1 wins at Sochi. But having shifted to the hard compound tyres, he managed to claw his way back to the podium places in this 53-lap race. Hamilton could well match and surpass Schumacher’s record later this year. He was precariously close to an automatic race-ban after the two penalty points that were added to his license, but hours after the race the stewards retracted these points.
Verstappen, meanwhile, did his form and confidence a world of good by splitting the two Mercedes cars after DNFs at both Monza and Mugello. Mercedes, however, still maintain their 100% record at Sochi—where they haven’t lost since the circuit was added to the Formula One calendar in 2014.
One driver who did put in a record-tying performance on Sunday was Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikonnen, who equalled Rubens Barrichello’s tally of 322 F1 starts. The 40-year-old Finn is the oldest in the current line-up of drivers and looks on course to break Barrichello’s record this year. Sergio Perez continued to impress for Racing Point by finishing fourth, and it was also a decent outing for AlphaTauri’s Russian driver Daniil Kvyat in his home race as he finished 8th ahead of his teammate Pierre Gasly.
Bottas’ win on Sunday means that the race for this year’s drivers championship could yet turn out to be exciting. Hamilton leads the standings with 205 points, while Bottas is behind him at 161 points and Verstappen at 3rd with 128 points so far.
The attention now turns to the Nurburgring in Germany for the Eifel Grand Prix in two weeks’ time. The last race at this iconic and daunting circuit was seven years ago and saw Sebastian Vettel win for Red Bull. Bottas will hope to add to his two wins in 2020 so far, but it will be interesting to see if Hamilton gets back to his usual best.