ANOTHER ONE-TWO FOR MERCEDES-AMG PETRONAS MOTORSPORT IN RUSSIA
Silver season continued in Sochi as Lewis Hamilton clinched his eighth victory of the season, as teammate Valtteri Bottas brought home the third 1-2 finish for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. This marks the team’s fifth consecutive win in Russia, matching their Italian and British GP record winning streaks.
Saturday’s Qualifying session belonged to Valtteri as he clinched his second pole position of the season with a perfectly executed lap around Sochi Autodrom. Lewis’ lap wasn’t quite enough to topple the ‘Fast Finn’, but ensured that the Silver Arrows locked out the front row for the fifth time in 2018.
In a textbook getaway Valtteri led the way down to Turn 1 with Lewis in close proximity. As car #44 was able to utilise the leader’s slipstream, the thread from the chasing Ferrari’s was nullified as the cars entered the braking area, and Lewis slotted in behind Valtteri into the long left-hander of Turn 3.
Pure Pit Wall noted that without a major incident, this was the first time since Hungary in which we have not seen the Safety Car deployed on Lap 1. Over the course of the next few laps, Valtteri and Lewis maintained a gap of 1.2-1.7 seconds, whereas the Ferrari of Vettel drifted to around 2 seconds behind the Silver Arrows.
As the leading Mercedes-AMG, Valtteri was the first to pit, swapping his Ultra Soft tyres for the Soft compound on Lap 12 with the intention to run until the end of the race. The team faced its first challenge of the race during this period as Lewis extended his planned stint, allowing Vettel to deploy an ‘undercut’ strategy and overturn the deficit to Lewis in P2. Toto Wolff would later explain that as he engaged Chief Strategist James Vowles in a conversation around this time, it delayed their call to Lewis by a lap.
When it was Lewis’ turn to pit, car #44 emerged alongside his championship rival, but crucially slower as he accelerated from the pitlane exit. Not to be deterred, Lewis stayed within range of Vettel over the course of the lap to launch an assault into Turn 1 on Lap 17. Vettel defended aggressively, so Lewis opted to go the long way around Turn 3 with an excellent manoeuvre to retake second into Turn 4.
Once all drivers had pitted aside from the now-leading Verstappen, Valtteri and Lewis continued from where they left off in the prior stint. However, due to a combination of blistering rear tyres on car #44 and pressure from Vettel behind, the team opted to protect the best chance of a 1-2 finish and maximum points by swapping Valtteri, who’s tyres were in much better condition, and Lewis on Lap 25.
Lewis now focused on Verstappen ahead, who was circulating much slower than the chasing trio on old Soft compound tyres. Unfortunately, due to the nature of Sectors 1 & 2 followed by Sector 3’s slow technical corners, Lewis was unable to close the gap to within DRS range until Verstappen pitted on Lap 43.
Now with a clear 10-lap run to the chequered flag, Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to take his 70th victory in Formula 1™️ – his 49th for the Silver Arrows. Valtteri Bottas followed in P2, just 2.5 seconds behind to secure his 20th career podium and a maximum of 43 team points.
Pure Pit Wall saw a surprising 43 overtakes in total at the Sochi Autodrom, 19 of which were DRS assisted.
The team leaves Russia with a considerable advantage in the Drivers’ Championship over Sebastian Vettel (256 points), with Lewis Hamilton 50 points ahead (306 points) and Valtteri Bottas placed 3rd (189 points).
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (495 points) leads Ferrari (442 points) by 53 points in the Constructors’ Championship.
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