SOCHI, September 27
Valtteri Bottas won the Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes today after teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton collected two time penalties for infringements before the race had even started. Hamilton, who started on pole position hoping for a 91st Formula One victory to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record, finished third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The Briton’s lead over Bottas shrunk to a still healthy 44 points after 10 of 17 races, with the Finn collecting a bonus point for fastest lap.
“Never give up. It’s a good day,” said Bottas, who addressed his critics in more basic terms over the team radio as he took the chequered flag.
“It’s nice to get a win, it’s been a while and I need to try and keep the momentum… there’s still quite a few races to go, so you never know. I’ll keep pushing, I wont give up and we’ll see how it ends up.”
The win was the Finn’s second of the season, and first since the Austrian opener in July.
‘They’re trying to stop me’
Hamilton’s hopes were dashed when stewards issued two five-second penalties for making practice starts outside the designated area as he headed to the grid.
Hamilton accused stewards of trying to stop him winning by imposing time penalties and said he would have to stay ‘squeaky clean’ to avoid a race ban. Asked if the punishment seemed excessive, he told Sky Sports television: “Of course it is. But it’s to be expected. They’re trying to stop me, aren’t they? But it’s OK. I just need to keep my head down and stay focused and we’ll see what happens.”
Hamilton said he would need to check the rules after being punished for practice starts outside of the designated area on his way to the grid.
“I’m pretty sure no-one’s got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before,” he added.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger. I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned on it. So it is what it is.”
Asked whether he really felt targeted, Hamilton told reporters any team running at the front came under a lot of scrutiny. “Everything we have on our car is being checked and triple-checked. They are changing rules, such as the engine regs, lots of things to get in the way to keep the racing exciting, I assume.”
Hamilton said the stewards were handing out too many penalty points. “It’s ridiculous the points they have been giving people this year in general,” he said. “I’ll just make sure I’m squeaky clean moving forwards, don’t give them an excuse for anything.” — Reuters