Sochi: Valtteri Bottas won the Formula One (F1) Russian Grand Prix here Sunday after his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton’s race was ruined by penalties, in front of the largest crowd of the pandemic-hit season.
Hamilton had been looking to match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins in F1 but had to settle for third behind Bottas and Max Verstappen. Bottas built a sizeable lead over Verstappen with ease and cruised to his first win since the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was already under investigation by the stewards when he started the race from pole position. Before the race he twice stopped to perform practice starts at the exit of the pit lane, rather than in the designated area. That eventually earned him two five-second penalties, dropping him as low as 11th at one stage. “Where’s that in the rule book?” Hamilton asked the team, and called the situation ‘ridiculous’.
Hamilton had asked Mercedes over the radio if he could perform the starts there, and was told he could. It was the second time in three races that a team blunder cost the British driver a shot at victory.
However, in spite of finishing third, Hamilton maintained a 44 points lead over Bottas. He should easily win the world championship crown with seven races left in the season. This year the F1 calendar has been modified due to the pandemic coronavirus.
Bottas, who also claimed the bonus point for fastest lap, said he wanted to ‘thank my critics’ after ending a run of eight races without a win despite having, with Hamilton, by far the fastest car.