Conclusions of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix

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A 10-second penalty cost Lewis Hamilton the chance to tie Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 race wins as Valtteri Bottas returned to victory in Sochi.

Here are our conclusions as Mercedes maintained their 100% Russian Grand Prix victory record with a seventh consecutive triumph.

Bottas back on the top step

“It has to work out for me at some point – it’s just a matter of things going my way sometimes and it will come.

These were the words of Valtteri Bottas after another frustrating afternoon at the Grand Prix of Tuscany two weeks ago. It only took 14 days for his prophecy to come true.

It was the Finn’s ninth F1 victory and a very typical victory. Bottas is at his best when allowed to do his own thing in the clear air, setting up metronomically fast lap times without the pressure of any rivals.

As soon as his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was forced to serve his 10-second penalty, there was never any question of who would finish on the top step of the podium – especially on a circuit where Bottas thrived and won, before .

But don’t think for a second, as Johnny Herbert hinted in his post-race interviews – and even Bottas himself – that the fight for the world championship could be resumed. Hamilton will certainly not let his big advantage slip away.

The gap is still as big as 44 points and Bottas was essentially gifted with this success. He had the opportunity to take the lead in Turn 2 in the first lap, but was unable to pass Hamilton, later blaming him bizarrely on “a huge bee” that had flown into his eye line and blocked his vision of the braking point.

At least, with seven races remaining in the season, the 31-year-old should now have renewed confidence to take more risks as they go.

I hope he can interpret the fight described in his first words on the team radio after taking the checkered flag: “It’s a good time to thank my critics. Who it may concern … f *** you. Never give up. “

Hamilton pulled back from the edge of the ban

Lewis Hamilton led another clear race – it was on the grid path where it all went wrong, with two practice starts from the wrong places each getting a five-second penalty.

Such is the Briton’s supreme ability that complacency is one of the few things that can derail him. Whether the rule violations can be properly described as complacency is debatable, but it was a similar thing that cost Hamilton at Monza where he entered the pit lane in red flag conditions.

It looked like the world champion would have two more penalty points added to his license, bringing it to 10 and only two unless a one-race ban was issued, but that penalty was revoked when it was announced that he was only following an instruction from the team. in Sochi.

And it’s certainly a good thing that Hamilton isn’t any closer to being forced out of a race, with none of his points lost before the Turkish Grand Prix in November.

If a race ban were to be activated, is it really fair that a grand prix this fall, with fans now returning to the circuits in large numbers, is deprived of the participation of the world championship leader? ? Is this something that would be truly deserved, even if he reached the 12 point threshold? Okay, rules are rules, but it’s not like the dominant F1 driver has a habit of chasing his rivals off the circuit (Alex Albon may not agree!)

Nonetheless, Toto Wolff recalled after the race that “we both win and lose together” and if there is one area that Mercedes – and Hamilton – need to improve upon is having a 100% understanding of what can and cannot, where and when, be done during a race weekend.

Perez makes his point

Sergio Perez didn’t have the best two months, missing two races with Covid-19 and then being excluded from the Racing Point squad.

But it was understandable that he was very chipper in Sochi after securing 4th place in qualifying and the race, just when he was looking for a new job.

The Mexican really should be the No.1 choice for any team looking for a driver for 2021, but his options aren’t the strongest, with Haas looking to push him past Alfa Romeo.

Perez said after the race he hasn’t signed anything yet and it almost makes you wonder if he should bide his time, just in case something unexpected happens.

It seems a little odd to us that Hamilton has yet to make a commitment to stay at Mercedes – or extend his F1 career, more generally – as we head into October, but maybe nothing should be read at all. .

Maybe Perez would prefer the security of knowing he has something sorted for next year, but either way, he’s done a lot of good for his future prospects in Russia.

Leclerc realizes Ferrari’s limited potential

Just as optimistic as Perez after the race was Charles Leclerc, who once again pulled 100% of his Ferrari’s potential by finishing P6, four places above his grid position.

Aside from an incident in the first lap with Lance Stroll which helped bring the Safety Car up, Leclerc had another excellent race – but was greatly helped by his teammate Sebastian Vettel, who held Esteban Ocon in the Renault.

This meant that Leclerc was finally able to split the Renauts. However, Vettel, reduced here to the role of winger, finished in 13th place.

This situation is a symbol of the decline of the former world champion and things will have to be very different when he joins Aston Martin next year.

After all, if Vettel were to play Lance Stroll’s second violin, something really wouldn’t be that great.

Ricciardo wins the Renault battle

As Leclerc filled this Renault sandwich, it was Daniel Ricciardo who was at the top of Esteban Ocon to continue the trend all season.

Granted, Ricciardo is much more experienced of the duo, but he leaves the team at the end of the season to join McLaren while Ocon remains with Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman had more than enough opportunities to attack and pass Vettel, but was unable to pull it off, as Ricciardo did so relatively quickly after being let go by Ocon under the team. – although the Aussie incurred a five-second penalty, which was ultimately made academic, when he locked himself up and derailed at Turn 2.

For much of the campaign, Ocon hasn’t done enough to show why he was rated so highly during his junior days at Mercedes and having clearly been second best behind Ricciardo here you have to be wondering how he will fare straight away. against Alonso. in 2021.

Jon Wilde

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