Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Lewis Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel snubs Ferrari team orders

Briton earns first victory in four attempts for Mercedes and edges closer to sixth world title, while controversy at rivals after German driver disobeys pre-race plan

Lewis Hamilton celebrates after Sunday's victory in the Russian Grand Prix. Reuters
Lewis Hamilton celebrates after Sunday's victory in the Russian Grand Prix. Reuters

Lewis Hamilton claimed his first win in four races on Sunday when he rode his luck to end Ferrari's winning streak with a well-judged strategic victory for Mercedes in a roller-coaster Russian Grand Prix.

The defending five-time champion came home 3.829 seconds ahead of his team-mate and nearest championship rival Valtteri Bottas, as Mercedes took full advantage of Ferrari's reliability and tactical problems by delivering a solid Silver Arrows one-two.

Sebastian Vettel, who led from lap one, suffered a mechanical failure and retired after leading, gifting Mercedes a chance to extend their Sochi supremacy to six wins in succession.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc came home a frustrated third after starting from pole and losing his advantage to Vettel on the opening lap in a race punctuated by two Safety Car interventions and one use of the Virtual Safety Car.

There was also controversy for the Italian team when Vettel disobeyed team orders and refused to allow his teammate to pass, as had apparently been agreed pre-race.

Ferrari's plan was for Leclerc to tow Vettel down into the first corner to remove the risk of Hamilton, starting second, taking the lead. Leclerc played his part, but once Vettel was in the lead, he refused to let his team-mate back past.

The German, who was forced to retire after 28 laps due to a power failure, said: "I don't know exactly what happened – I think we had an agreement, I spoke with Charles especially before the race, it was quite clear, maybe I missed something? I'm sure will talk about it."

Hamilton's win was his first since the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 4, his ninth in 16 outings this year and the 82nd of his career, lifting him 73 points clear at the top of the drivers' title race. He scored an additional point for fastest lap.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished fourth, having started ninth, ahead of team-mate Alex Albon, who had started from the pit lane.

Sebastian Vettel leadd his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc at the start of Sunday's Russian Grand Prix. EPA
Sebastian Vettel leads his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc at the start of Sunday's Russian Grand Prix. EPA

Carlos Sainz was sixth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez of Racing Point, Kevin Magnussen of Haas, Lando Norris in the second McLaren and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg.

"That's exactly what we needed," said a delighted Hamilton following a flawless performance by Mercedes. "It was an incredible job by all the team – not giving up. Keeping up with Ferrari was a hard task, but we kept pushing.

"Honestly, I try not to think too much about the championship – it's one race at a time. Collectively that's what were working on it's getting harder and harder as the season goes on – one foot in front of the other and we have to keep putting performances like this in and I know the bosses will be happy."

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory in the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday. AFP
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory on Sunday. AFP

Bottas said his second was a credit to the team's belief. "Starting fourth and finishing second is not bad, is it?" he said. "So, it's not so bad. It's not a win, but still pretty good."

Leclerc remained poised, despite his disappointment. "At least we are consistent," he said. "It was an ok-ish race. Mercedes are still very quick but not compared to qualifying, so we need to work on [our race pace] in the coming races.

"It's a shame for the team not to have both of us up here ... I will always trust the team, but our tactic was for me to give the slipstream, which I did – and then, well I need to speak to the team about that."

Updated: September 29, 2019 06:24 PM

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