The pre-race storylines told us to prepare for Mercedes domination. After all, Mercedes captured all pole positions and had led every single race lap since the Russian Grand Prix moved to Sochi. Then qualifying happened. Ferrari locked out the front row! Whoa, that hadn’t happened in years. Ferrari was ascendant even on unfavourable tracks. Well, then the race happened and neither storyline panned out exactly as predicted.
Vettel scored pole position and Raikkonen was in P2 (on the dirty side of the track). Bottas was P3 (clean side) and Hamilton was P4. The first turn at Sochi is only a slight kink in the tarmac, so it’s a long drag race down to the first real turn sequence at Turns 2 and 3. The Ferraris got off to decent starts, but Bottas he was on the clean side of the track (unlike Hamilton) so was able to
draft off of Vettel and “get a tow.” As a result, Bottas was first through the turns and he never relinquished P1. Vettel was second through the turn and he finished P2. So with Raikkonnen in 3rd and Hamilton in 4th. It was a very boring race. There was no passing anywhere in the field after the first lap. If we are looking for silver linings, Bottas got his first win ever, so that was nice for the Finn.
The difficulty of overtaking on the track at Sochi was compounded by the hard tyre compounds that Pirelli brought to Russia. Drivers could choose between the Ultrasofts, Supersofts and Softs. Hulkenberg ran 40+ laps of a 57 lap race on one set of the very softest compound, which is evidence that strategy played no role in this race. Needless to say, it was a one-stop affair.
Ricciardo had another tough race. This time his right rear brake caught on fire and he had to retire before he had completed even 10 laps. In other news, Stroll finished a race! Poor Alonso couldn’t even start the race because of engine problems. Grosjean and Palmer crashed each other out in the first race. Neither of those guys is having a season to remember.
P1, Bottas; P2, Vettel; P3, Raikkonen; P4, Hamilton; P5, Verstappen; P6, Massa; P7, Perez; P8, Ocon; P9, Hulkenberg; P10, Sainz