As the glaring light of the 2018 Formula 1 season begins to wane, whatever performance gains Ferrari had made at the summer break have seemingly been diluted by Mercedes and their huge development push to recapture their advantage and this weekend in the lead up to the Russian Grand Prix, it seemed they certainly had all the answers.
Lewis Hamilton continued the 100% domination record for Mercedes at the Russian Grand Prix winning the race and extending his lead to 50 points to his rival Sebastian Vettel. The celebrations were a bit damp due to Mercedes calling team orders by moving Valtteri Bottas over so Lewis could take the lead and win. Valtteri finished in second behind his teammate with Vettel in third.
A win for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton by extending their driver and constructor championship leads irrespective of team orders. The result was exactly as the team needed them to be but reading fan comments, it leaves a sour taste in their mouths…or in social media terms, their fingers as they type their comments.
A big win for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who started 19th and managed to claw his way back to 5th through some terrific passing and measured driving. A terrific result for his 21st birthday drive. In retrospect, his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t making up similar ground due to a front wing issue that was eventually changed so to finish in 6th was a decent result considering he was driving a difficult car for his first long stint.
A big win for Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and once again, this young man is showing why Ferrari picked him for 2019 as he is putting in performances beyond the cars capacity and turning in to something very special indeed. Charles beat the typical best-of-the-rest teams such as Haas F1, Renault, Force India and that’s huge! The car’s ultimate pace is a bit of good news for Kimi Raikkonen as well as he’ll take the wheel in 2019.
A quiet win for Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen who did well to fight off the dual attack from Force India all day. Kevin had an aggressive defense but nothing untoward as stewards reviewed it. Force India may not have finished in 8th or 7th but the dual points finish is what they needed to pull closer to McLaren in the constructor’s championship in 6th.
A fail for Ferrari who needed a win but have slipped back behind Mercedes it total performance. An overcut from Sebastian Vettel seemed like it may work but the Ferrari simply didn’t have the pace to keep Lewis behind them. The championship was coming down to small details but it could be back to clear Mercedes domination at this point.
A fail for Valtteri Bottas who had pole position and led the race with no struggles only to be asked to move over for Lewis. This isn’t what Bottas wanted and Lewis said it wasn’t what he wanted but nonetheless, Valtteri lost the race he most likely should have won.
A fail for Toro Rosso who had brake issues with both cars spinning on the 6th lap and then retiring both at the end of that lap.
A fail for both Renault and McLaren who were nowhere near the best-of-the-rest performance finishing well out of the points in a race with a mixed grid and several cars out of place.
A fail for Sergey Sirtokin who managed to out qualify his teammate, Lance Stroll, but then finished dead last in his home grand prix in 18th while stroll managed to finish in 16th.
A fail for Marcus Ericsson who’s teammate managed points while he languished in 13th and provided more justification as to why the team would sign Kimi and Giovinazzi for 2019.
Team orders are still a pall on the sport and perhaps some of that is the obvious body language, the comments and sheepish statements from drivers and team members as well as the press. Lewis apologizing for denying Valtteri the win, Paul di Resta setting the podium interview stage as a result that wasn’t legitimate or unfortunate. These all leave fans in the position of being towed into the emotionally negative place.
Lewis said in post-race press briefings that he didn’t want team orders and tried to make it clear that it was not something he asked for, it was the team’s decision. Lewis said passing Valtteri didn’t feel good and he didn’t want it but it is what the team wanted. I also found it very interesting when Lewis pulled Valtteri onto the top of the podium with him exactly as Michael Schumacher had in 2002 at the Austrian Grand Prix that caused such an outrage at the time.
Interestingly, it was Sebastian Vettel who came to the defense of Mercedes and their team orders by suggesting the press were being too harsh. Sebastian said it was the obvious no-brainer decision to take and secure maximum points in the driver’s championship.
As a long-time Ferrari fan, I understand why the team is paramount and team orders are used so Mercedes calling team orders to improve Lewis’s position and damage Ferrari’s Vettel as much as possible makes sense. What I get miffed about is when Mercedes or Mercedes fans slate Ferrari for issuing team orders and crow about how fair Mercedes is when it comes to team orders. If I were Toto, I would have made the same call but unlike Toto, I wouldn’t piously castigate Ferrari when they do the same thing.
Russian GP Results
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||53||31.016s|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||53||1m20.451s|
|8||Kevin Magnussen||Haas/Ferrari||52||1 Lap|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||52||1 Lap|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||52||1 Lap|
|11||Romain Grosjean||Haas/Ferrari||52||1 Lap|
|12||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||52||1 Lap|
|13||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber/Ferrari||52||1 Lap|
|14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren/Renault||52||1 Lap|
|15||Lance Stroll||Williams/Mercedes||52||1 Lap|
|16||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren/Renault||51||2 Laps|
|17||Carlos Sainz||Renault||51||2 Laps|
|18||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams/Mercedes||51||2 Laps|
|–||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||4||Brakes|
|–||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||4||Brakes|