F1 Russian GP: Hamilton’s win, Mercedes team orders and Vettel’s title chances
What we learnt from the race at the Sochi Autodrom
Lewis Hamilton has extended his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ standings but his victory at the Russian Grand Prix came after he benefited from “controversial” team orders issued by Mercedes.
The BBC reports that Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was told by Mercedes “to let him by at half distance to protect against rival Sebastian Vettel”. This meant that Hamilton finished first and Bottas came second at the Sochi Autodrom. Ferrari’s Vettel was third.
When asked about the team orders Hamilton, the reigning world champion, told the BBC it was the “most conflicted” he had ever been.
The British driver said: “The team did an amazing job this weekend and everybody deserves the one-two we have. Ultimately it just wasn’t the result I wanted. But it was the result the team wanted.
“The heads of the team are really nervous for these last races. If something happens – engine failure, a tyre blow-out, whatever it may be – and we lose the world championship by one or three points, they will look back and say: ‘We are a team and we didn’t work as a team’.”
Wolff: I’d rather be the baddie
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said after the race that the order for Bottas to concede the lead to title challenger Hamilton was “rationally the right call”.
Wolff told Sky Sports: “Somebody needs to be the baddie sometimes and it’s me today. You need to weigh it up. What do I hope for? To be the baddie on Sunday evening for many right reasons or do I want to be the idiot in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season? I’d rather be the baddie today than the idiot at the end of the year.”
Vettel: we have a fair chance in the title race
With Hamilton winning in Russia and Vettel finishing third, the Mercedes ace has built a 50-point lead over the Ferrari driver in the F1 title race.
There are five races remaining in the 2018 season. With 125 points up for grabs, Vettel and Ferrari will not be giving up the championship chase.
The German said: “I’m clever enough to know it’s not getting easier if we lose points. It takes one DNF and all of a sudden things look different. Ideally two – which I’m not wishing on Lewis. You never know what happens.
“We need to stay on top of our game which maybe we haven’t been completely this weekend. [We must] make sure that from where we are now we focus on winning the last races.”
Opportunities could still arise, he said. “It is not entirely in our hands. We need a bit of something to happen, but we need to make sure we are always there. So if it is a third we can get, or a win, we need to get it – to make sure we do everything.
“I still think if we win the next races we can put a lot of pressure on them and make something happen. It is not easy but I believe if everything goes well, we have a fair chance.”