ESPN rounds up the main talking points from the Russian Grand Prix, where team orders were at the centre of the race as Hamilton took the victory ahead of Bottas.
Mercedes shows Ferrari how it’s done: Mercedes’ first lap was beautifully managed. Lewis Hamilton had a slow getaway and came under attack from Sebastian Vettel. He was helped by the tow of Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1 but, as soon as he had kept the red car behind him, half the job was done.
Contrast that to Ferrari’s start from its most recent front-row lockout at the Italian Grand Prix, where Hamilton jumped Vettel as he left the door wide open while fighting Kimi Raikkonen, ultimately propelling the British driver into a position to win the race.
Double trouble: Toro Rosso suffered what appeared to be brake failures on both cars at the same point in the race. The team is investigating what happened but it’s never comfortable for a team to see both cars go out of the race so dramatically — fortunately, neither Brendon Hartley or Pierre Gasly ended up in a wall.
Team orders: Mercedes’ decision to tell Bottas to give the lead — and victory — to Hamilton will be controversial but it’s hard to argue it was the wrong decision. It was a shame for Bottas, who has driven well all weekend, but his form up to this point in the season compared to Hamilton hasn’t warranted being treated on equal terms at this stage, especially when he came to Sochi already on the verge of falling out of mathematical contention.
Mercedes backed its number one driver — again, something Ferrari failed to do at Monza — and looks likely to be rewarded with another championship.
A frosty finish: There were some curious radio messages at the end of the race. Bottas asked Mercedes if it planned to finish with him in second, which the team confirmed, suggesting he had been unclear of the plan when he originally moved over for Hamilton. Toto Wolff even broke usual Mercedes radio protocol to apologise to the Finn on the radio.
The post-race celebration was anything but, with Hamilton clearly uncomfortable at how the race had played out. The championship leader immediately sought out his teammate to apologise.
Edge of the seat stuff: Team orders played a part, but Hamilton deserves credit for refusing to sit back on his championship lead after dropping behind Sebastian Vettel at the pit-stop window. The pair nearly collided at Turn 2 — Vettel was fortunate not to be penalised for what looked like a double move — but Hamilton got the move done beautifully on the outside of the horseshoe turn which followed.
Overtake of the race: The move above was thrilling, but another at the same part of the circuit stood out. Charles Leclerc’s move around the outside of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen on the second lap was beautiful and was ultimately rewarded with seventh position at the chequered flag. There’s plenty to look forward to with Leclerc’s imminent promotion to Ferrari and a car capable of making those moves at the very front of the field.
Another dull Sochi race: Qualifying was a poor spectacle and, without the drama and controversy at the front, this grand prix wouldn’t have been worth watching in its entirety. With plenty of other circuits and venues available, it’s time for Formula One to consider whether this awful race track is worth staying on the calendar.
21 going on 35: Max Verstappen turned in a very mature drive on his birthday. We saw the rash Verstappen earlier in the season but he looks as polished as ever as we reach the tail-end of 2018. He was never likely to finish any higher than fifth without a Safety Car but it was a flawless display — one good enough to be our driver of the day.
Championship permutations: Hamilton does not need to win another race to be champion. Finishing third at each of the remaining races would be enough to secure his fifth world championship. Vettel now needs something drastic to happen to have any chance of beating Hamilton to the same accolade.