Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

Valtteri Bottas wins Russian GP as penalties put Lewis Hamilton's record bid on hold

Mercedes driver handed two five-second penalties for irregular pre-race practice starts

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, left, poses on the podium after winning the Russian Grand Prix alongside third placed Lewis Hamilton. Reuters
Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, left, poses on the podium after winning the Russian Grand Prix alongside third placed Lewis Hamilton. Reuters

Valtteri Bottas made the most of a difficult day for his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to secure the ninth win of his career during an incident-packed Russian Grand Prix.

The Finn took second place at the start and then the lead when the runaway series leader and six-time champion took an extended pit-stop to serve two five-second penalties for irregular pre-race practice starts.

Hamilton, aiming to win and equal Michael Schumacher's record of 91 Grand Prix triumphs, re-joined in 11th place and fought back to finish third behind Bottas and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

His second win in Russia and second this season reinvigorated Bottas' challenge for the drivers' title and reduced Hamilton's lead to 44 points.

Sergio Perez came home fourth for Racing Point ahead of Renault's Daniel Ricciardo, who had to take a five second penalty for an infringement, and Charles Leclerc, who was sixth for Ferrari.

Hamilton did not want to talk about his penalty.

"It doesn't matter. It's done now. I'll take the points and move on, but congratulations to Valtteri.

"A big thank-you to the fans here this weekend - spasibo," he said. "It's not the greatest day, but it is what it is..."

All three drivers wore their racing overalls on the podium after the race, obeying the latest revised rules from the sport's ruling body not to wear any items carrying 'political' messages.

Hamilton had made a solid start from his record 96th pole and fended off Bottas, who had passed Verstappen's Red Bull.

epa08701034 British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (front L) of Mercedes-AMG Petronas and his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas (front R) lead the pack during the start of the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the race track in Sochi, Russia, 27 September 2020. EPA/Bryn Lennon / Pool
Lewis Hamilton, front left, of Mercedes and teammate Valtteri Bottas. EPA

The Dutchman, recovering from a ragged getaway, ran off-line to defend against a rapid Ricciardo before two first lap crashes behind them ended the early action and brought out the safety car.

McLaren's Carlos Sainz hit a wall in the run-off area at Turn Two after losing control before Racing Point's Lance Stroll was nudged from behind by Leclerc and spun into the barriers.

The action resumed on lap six, when Hamilton's penalties were announced.

"What happened? What happened?" he responded on team radio. "Those starts, going to the grid, we got five seconds for each – out of position," he was told.

Hamilton was also given two more penalty points on his racing licence and, with a total of 10 in 12 months, moved within two of an automatic one-race ban.

He reacted by pushing to open a 2.5 seconds lead on Bottas before pitting on lap 17 for hard tyres and his combined 10-seconds penalty.

At the front, Bottas reeled off fastest laps to open a clear lead before pitting on lap 27, retaining his advantage ahead of Leclerc's Ferrari with Verstappen, having pitted earlier in third.

By lap 32, Bottas was in command with a 12 seconds lead over Verstappen and Hamilton up to third after slicing through the field, many of whom had pitted.

The charge had given entertainment to the 30,000 spectators, the first significant crowd at a sports event in the Covid-19 era.

Updated: September 27, 2020 07:27 PM

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