In Depth

F1 Russian GP: Mercedes’s ‘deliciously ironic’ one-two after Ferrari farce

Hamilton hails a special win and Vettel defies team orders - how the drivers and media reacted in Sochi

2019 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix: top five

  • 1st. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 26 points  
  • 2nd. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 18  
  • 3rd. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 15  
  • 4th. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 12  
  • 5th. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) 10

Ferrari headed to the Russian GP in confident mood after three successive victories, but it was Mercedes who finished the race smiling after Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas secured a one-two for the Silver Arrows.

With Charles Leclerc starting the race on pole and Sebastian Vettel in third, Ferrari were hopeful of securing their own one-two at the Sochi Autodrom.

Vettel took an early lead in Russia, however, the German defied Ferrari team orders to let Leclerc past and then the drama started to unravel. 

Following Vettel’s retirement from engine failure on lap 27 the virtual safety car and pit stops allowed Mercedes to take advantage with Hamilton and Bottas finishing ahead of Leclerc in third. 

While the victory has edged Hamilton and Mercedes towards another championship double the fall-out has focused on Ferrari’s team order controversy and the rivalry between Vettel and Leclerc. 

Here we look at the driver and media reactions to the race in Russia.

‘Deliciously ironic’: driver and team reactions

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: P1 

“Just an incredible day for the team considering the challenges that we’ve had. This weekend we knew we had to pull more out of this car. There was more potential there but we didn’t know where it was. We pulled ourselves a little bit closer to the Ferraris this weekend and it was just enough to get ahead. Those guys are still quite dominant at the moment so it’s taken quite a special job from us today to come out ahead of them.”

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes: P2

“I think starting fourth and finishing second is not bad. For sure, it’s not a win, but as a team, for us it is a big win. It’s been a tough few [races] so it’s good to get back to these kind of results. I had a good race myself. Just the first stint I was lacking a bit of pace, I couldn’t keep up and I was stuck behind one of the McLarens at the beginning. But the second stint felt decent and I just had to keep Charles behind and I managed to do it, so not too bad.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: P3

“I will always trust the team. The tactic was me giving the slipstream to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened. But then… I don’t know, I need to speak with the team to know better the situation.”

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: did not finish

“I spoke with Charles in particular before the race and I think it was quite clear. Maybe I missed something. I was in third and Charles was in first and we were talking about a strategy to find a way past Lewis. Obviously I had a very good start so there were a couple of options on the table.”

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari team principal 

“Ideally, Charles would have given the slipstream at the start to Seb to make sure that we would have been first and second at the first lap, and this would have given us the best position to control and manage the race, which was happening to the point of unreliability. By the time he would have given the slipstream and Sebastian would have had that kind of advantage, ideally we would have swapped back. But Seb was very fast in the race. So I think every decision could have been postponed. Initially, we asked them to swap but that was not the case because Charles was not sufficiently close to him. I still believe it’s a luxury. We have got two fantastic drivers therefore that’s where I’m starting from.”

James Allison, Mercedes technical director

“We were fortunate in the way it played out. It’s deliciously ironic in a way that it was Sebastian’s misfortune that brought us our fortune.”

‘The slipstream crash at Ferrari’: media reactions

Lennart Wermke, Bild

“This rivalry just does not run out of steam. New trouble between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. In the victory of Lewis Hamilton in Sochi, the two Ferrari teammates argue for a broken agreement on the slipstream at the start of the Russia race.”

Andrew Benson, BBC Sport 

“Ferrari’s damage-limitation mode went into overdrive after the Russian Grand Prix, but it remains to be seen whether they will be able to control the fall-out from the latest team orders controversy between their two drivers. The facts are simple. Sebastian Vettel, several times in the early laps of the race, ignored a direct order to let Charles Leclerc past him into the lead.”

Jenson Button, Sky Sports

“I find it very strange that Sebastian had to give the place back, but it’s a decision they’ve made. I think they’ve over-thought it, personally, because it looks like he [Vettel] just got a great tow as normal there.”

Giusto Ferronato, La Gazzetta dello Sport

“It could have been a red double, it was a silver double. Ferrari returns from Russia with so much bitterness for a wasted opportunity: when you are so faster than the others only a fortuitous case can put your opponents back into the game. Sebastian Vettel suffers enormously from the strength of Leclerc.”

Planet F1

“The great Ferrari stitch up of ’19. Not quite. But a review of Charles Leclerc’s season shows that the young charger could easily have won four or five additional grands prix in 2019 if a few variables had gone his way.”

Phil Duncan, The Daily Telegraph

“Leclerc is the sport’s man of the moment, having secured four poles in as many races, and out-qualifying Vettel at 10 rounds on the spin. But Leclerc’s impressive form and the absence of a clear No 1 at Ferrari leaves Binotto with the almost improbable task of managing his stars.”

‘Vettel has no future at Ferrari’: F1 world reactions 

Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing

“Ferrari has managed to not win with the fastest car. And although he was the fastest man, they sacrificed Sebastian. He has no future at Ferrari anymore.”

Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 F1 world champion, speaking to Auto Bild and Sky Italia

“Vettel set his car up for the race and was much faster. Now Ferrari has a serious problem. They didn’t have to tell Vettel to return the place immediately like that. They then spent the rest of the race thinking about how to put Leclerc back in front. Karma punished them in the end. Vettel was faster today and deserved to stay ahead.” 

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