It may not go down in history as one of the most exciting Formula 1 races from beginning to end, but the Russian Grand Prix did, in fact, have an exciting beginning AND an exciting end! Let’s just gloss over that bit in the middle, and take a look at our top five talking points from Sochi!
Whether you love or hate the track layout at Sochi, no-one can deny that the Caucasus Mountains and views of the Black Sea from the swooping camera helicopter create a unique backdrop for the Russian Grand Prix weekend. With the Olympic park, nearby beach, and funfair, it’s fair to say that it might be a more exciting circuit venue to visit than the race it produces on television! Plus, it does give the drivers some metaphors to use…nice one, Max!
Know Your (Track) Limits!
Ahead of the race weekend, the FIA took steps to stop drivers gaining an advantage as they accelerated towards Sochi’s Turn 3 by running wide at Turn 2. Two kerbs were added, with a statement issued saying “Any driver who fails to negotiate Turn 2 by using the track, and who passes completely to the left of the orange kerb element on the apex, must then keep to the left of the second new orange kerb element on the edge of the artificial grass and re-join the track safely at the start of Turn 3.”
So that’s clear as crystal, right? Apparently not, as it became a reoccurring topic of the weekend, and true to their word, during the race, we saw 5 second penalties issued to both McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen. They were also both given a licence penalty point. K-Mag took to his radio, asking his team if they’d spoken to Charlie Whiting, but it was a done deal.
We also saw lot of comments on social media regarding Sebastien Vettel, as many race viewers thought that he seemed to be a repeat offender of the very same…but he escaped unscathed.
Putin On A Brave Face – Podium Room Awkwardness
Well, what can we say? Whilst we realise having a world leader attend and give recognition to a motorsport event is quite a thing, and something that we would love to see at other races on the calendar, the podium room chat looked excruciatingly awkward, and that tense atmosphere certainly radiated out to us as a television audience.
The Matroyshka in the corner didn’t think much of it either:
First Lap Shenanigans!
The anticipation had been building ahead of lights out, and who could not empathise with Fernando Alonso as we heard his radio talk on the warm-up lap, and subsequently saw him stopped on track, and logged as a DNS with an ERS issue.
From lights out, away we went, with a great launch from Valtteri Bottas, slipstreaming Seb and then using his Mercedes power to pass him for the lead, something Vettel himself made mention of as a “drag race” in his post-race interviews. We saw Lewis Hamilton in an “oh so close” Ferrari/Red Bull sandwich that had us holding our breath when we saw the replays – how did they not touch, we asked ourselves!
We saw Lance Stroll take a spin, and that punt from Hulk was subsequently investigated by the Stewards and no action taken, and then we saw the Grosjean/Palmer incident that led to the Safety Car’s appearance, and both of their retirements from the race. Replays showed a nudge from Romain that turned Jolyon in on him, before the bigger second impact, but both drivers stood firm in their media commitments, each citing the other to be at fault. The incident was subsequently reviewed by the stewards post-race, and no further action was taken against either driver.
To Finnish First, You Must First Finnish…
Victory for Valtteri!
Hat’s off to Valterri Bottas for a cool, calm and collected drive that took him to his maiden Formula 1 race victory. After a great start, Valterri was focussed on doing everything right, maintaining his composure, and that he did – making just one mistake on lap 39, locking up and giving himself with a flat spot that can’t have made the remaining laps that easy as he became aware of Vettel getting ever closer. We watched on the edge of our seats as the gap diminished lap by lap, possibly humming the theme tune from Jaws. Would the backmarkers that he was approaching leave him as easy prey for Seb? Could he hold on? The answer was a resounding yes, and we witnessed a humble winner in Valtteri, who said “Normally, I’m not that emotional but hearing the Finnish National anthem was very special for me.”
It was also a win that was very popular within the paddock, with plaudits from his former team, Williams standing out amongst others, and ex-team mate Felipe Massa was one of the first to run over and embrace him. Team mate Lewis Hamilton was also on hand to congratulate him and joined him in the Mercedes team photo.
It’s fair to say the win was popular with the fan audience as well, with supporters of other teams vocal in their praise of a Bottas win, and of a third winner so far this season.
Now, onwards to Barcelona and the start of the European leg of the season, where we will see how the pecking order plays out after the many upgrades have been applied. Will Red Bull join the lead pack and get in the mix too? We can’t wait to see!