F1 2017: Russian Grand Prix Race Recap

rr F1 RUS

Valtteri Bottas won the 2017 Russian Grand Prix with a decisive move on Kimi Raikkoknen at the start and a sweeping acceleration around Sebastian Vettel through the first turn. The German finished ahead of his Ferrari teammate. Though Vettel tired to claw back the gap after late pit stops, he could not take away Bottas’ first F1 win. Lewis Hamilton, who suffered from an overheating Mercedes in the early stages, finished fourth, with Max Verstappen rounding out the top five. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired early on, his right rear brakes on fire.

Though Romain Grosjean and Joylon Palmer collided on the first lap, bringing out the Safety Car, the race generally proceeded without the excitement shown in the first few races of the 2017 season. Most drivers made their ultrasoft starting tires last to at least the halfway point of the race.

Results of the 2017 Russian Grand Prix

DRIVER TEAM GAP
1.  Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
2.  Sebastian Vettel Ferrari  0.617
3.  Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari  11.000
4.  Lewis Hamilton Mercedes  36.320
5.  Max Verstappen Red Bull  60.416
6.  Sergio Perez Force India  86.788
7.  Esteban Ocon Force India  95.000
8.  Nico Hulkenberg Renault  96.188
9.  Felipe Massa Williams  1 lap
10.  Carlos Sainz  Toro Rosso  1 lap
11.  Lance Stroll  Williams  1 lap
12.  Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso  1 lap
13.  Kevin Magnussen Haas  1 lap
14.  Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren  1 lap
15.  Marcus Ericsson Sauber  1 lap
16.  Pascal Wehrlein Sauber  2 laps
 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
 Romain Grosjean Haas
 Joylon Palmer Renault
 Fernando Alonso McLaren

Vettel {1:33.194} continued his season’s hot streak by pipping teammate Raikkonen to pole in the final moments of Saturday’s qualifying. Less than a tenth covered the Ferraris and Bottas, with Hamilton an half second behind his Mercedes teammate. Ricciardo, Massa, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Ocon all competed in Q3.

Palmer and Wehrlein ended Q1 separately off the track, with the Renault in the barriers. Alonso pushed his McLaren into Q2, but a thoroughly grumpy Grosjean posted the slowest time of the session. Ferrari played with the competition a bit, setting fast laps on the supersofts instead of the ultrasofts in the early running.

Before the start, Verstappen suffered from a seemingly unfixable water pump leak. Red Bull sealed it and sent the Dutchman to the grid on time. News also broke race morning that Sauber would run 2018 with Honda engines. Wehrlein, Ericsson, and Vandoorne started on the supersofts, with the rest of the field starting on the ultrasoft Pirellis.

Just before the formation lap, McLaren asked Alonso to try something again and he responded, “try yourself.” Things would continue to devolve as the lap continued. He stopped at pit in, climbing out without joining the grid. With that, Race Control called an aborted start, adding another formation lap and decreasing the length of the race.

Race Start:
Vettel got away cleanly when the lights went out, with Bottas moving directly up to second around Raikkonen. Not content with second, Bottas swept around Vettel for the lead. Hamilton pushed Verstappen, but should have followed his teammate through as Bottas shoved his way to the front and the lead. Behind, Palmer and Grosjean collected each other. Grosjean tried to make it three across into T2, pushing into Palmer, then collecting him again as the Englishman spun. They both ended the day in the wall but climbed out and walked away unassisted. Behind, Stroll spun in an incident with Hulkenberg and continued at the back of the field.

Safety Car {L1 of 52}:
Bottas led Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Massa, Ricciardo, Perez, Ocon, and Hulkenberg under the SC at the end of L1. Bottas judged the restart on L4 easily, soon extending his lead to more than a second. Ricciardo in sixth soon fell well down the order with his right rear brake on fire. He attempted to return to pit lane, doing so before Red Bull retired the car. Not too long thereafter, the team asked Verstappen to move his brake pressures forward as much as possible. By the end of L7, Bottas had a two second gap on Vettel. Meanwhile, stewards decided to take no action on Stroll/Hulkenberg, with the Grosjean/Palmer coming together investigated after the race. McLaren indicated Alonso’s issue as an ERS problem.

End L10 of 52:
By the end of L10, Bottas had over three seconds cushion to Vettel. Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Massa, Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg, and Magnussen completed the top ten. Hamilton reported “sensations” as he continued to lose time to Raikkonen. His relative pace varied lap by lap. The team soon told him his temperatures were borderline and to “just do what you can do.” Magnussen and Vandoorne both received five seconds for leaving the track limits and rejoining improperly on the first lap.

Laps ticked easily by, as Bottas continued to grow his gap. His teammate struggled with an overheating Mercedes in fourth. The team hoped to reassure Hamilton other cars were suffering similarly. He asked insistently but politely for updates, but also posted a race fast lap on L17. Bottas responded with his own fast lap next time by. In second, Vettel informed Ferrari he had blisters on his front left. Not long after, Verstappen complained of the same.

Pit Stops Begin {L21 of 52}:
Massa pitted on L21, with Magnussen (who also served his penalty), Kvyat, and Ericsson following. Vandoorne pitted on L24, serving his penalty as well. Bottas looked set to pit soon, with a lot of blistering of his own on the front left, dropping his nearly five second gap down to just over three seconds as halfway approached. Ocon and Stroll pitted on L26.

Halfway {L26 of 52}:
Bottas pitted at the halfway point, just two and a half seconds ahead of Vettel, rejoining fourth after a 2.5s stop. Vettel took the lead, with Raikkonen and Hamilton second and third without yet pitting. Ferrari told Vettel to “push now.” Perez pitted from sixth on L28. Vettel looked to push, but complained Stroll needed to be shown the blue flag. Raikkonen stopped before his teammate, giving up third to Bottas with a 3.1s stop. Verstappen and Hulkenberg also had yet to pit on L28. Verstappen did so the next time by, spending 2.3s stationary. Hamilton pitted on L31. Mercedes changed his four tires to the supersofts in 2.9s. His teammate posted the race fast lap in second, nineteen seconds behind leader Vettel, who had yet to stop.

Vettel finally stopped at the end of L33 after the team told him to box on L32, then to stay out again. Ferrari gave him a 3.4s stop, bringing Vettel back out clearly behind Bottas. Raikkonen had a bit of a think, wondering why he didn’t pit earlier to be ahead of Bottas. His engineer responded, “he was leading the race, Kimi.”

With sixteen laps to go, Bottas led Vettel by four and a half seconds and no traffic between them. Soon, Bottas lost a massive amount of time with a lockup at T13. Vettel continued to push, dropping the gap under two seconds with eleven laps to go. Hulkenberg made his first and only stop on L41, dropping from sixth to ninth. Massa made a second stop on L41 from the sixth he inherited from Hulkenberg. He also rejoined ninth, moving the Renault driver up to eighth.

10 Laps Remain of 52:
Vettel closed, taking tiny sips of the lead away from Bottas with ten laps to go. Raikkonen sat third, with Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Massa, and Sainz completing the top ten. As the leaders weaved through traffic, Bottas gained a bit of time back, keeping the gap around two seconds. Bottas informed the team, “In the remaining laps, I want less talking.”

Ferrari encouraged Vettel to put pressure on the Finn to force him into a mistake. The gap decreased to just over a second with five laps to go as Bottas pushed through lapped cars and Vettel posted a race fast lap. His teammate soon bested it. As the laps ticked by, Vettel grew closer, but not close enough to use DRS. Veerstappen complained of debris in T5, with a piece of something sitting near the racing line.

Bottas caught traffic with Vettel less than a second behind and just two laps to go. Bottas passed his former teammate on the final lap into T2, leaving Vettel stuck behind the Brazilian at T3. In passing the former Ferrari driver, Vettel nearly made contact, asking “what the hell was that?” In the end, Bottas had enough space to take his first Formula One win.

{VMR}

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