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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Vettel extends Formula One championship lead while Hamilton toils: Russian Grand Prix talking points

It was Valtteri Bottas who was the victor in Sochi, but it was an interesting day for the other protagonists at the front as Sebastian Vettel took second while Lewis Hamilton toiled.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates his second place after the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi on April 30, 2017. Andrej Isakovic / AFP
Sebastian Vettel celebrates his second place after the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi on April 30, 2017. Andrej Isakovic / AFP

It was Valtteri Bottas who was the victor in Sochi, but it was an interesting day for the other protagonists at the front as Sebastian Vettel took second while Lewis Hamilton toiled.

Vettel playing long game

He started on pole and did not win, but Vettel was still smiling on the podium. No, it was not a third victory of 2017, but Vettel could take heart from the fact of how much pressure he put Bottas under in the closing stages and that he extended his championship lead over Hamilton to 13 points. Though it was Bottas who was the dominant Mercedes driver in Sochi, at this stage it will be still Hamilton, the triple world champion, who Vettel sees as his main title rival, so out-scoring him is still a major positive.

Hamilton’s poor showing

This was the first time since Azerbaijan last June that Hamilton finished a race but was not on the podium and it highlighted an all-round dismal weekend for the Briton. He was out-paced by Bottas in qualifying and was never a factor in the race at the front as he fell behind his teammate and the Ferraris. He finished 36 seconds behind Bottas, and the triple world champion needs a strong performance in Spain in two weeks time to re-establish his title credentials.

Reality check for Red Bull

Another weekend, another reality check for Red Bull Racing. Max Verstappen was fifth home for the Austrian team, but more than a minute behind race winner Bottas. The car is not capable of challenging at the front, and even more worryingly it is also unreliable as Daniel Ricciardo was sidelined by brake problems, the issue that also stopped Verstappen in Bahrain. The team are expected to have an upgrade to their package in Spain and they need it.

Lack of track action

While the Bottas-Vettel duel was fun it overshadowed the actual lack of track action with virtually no overtaking following the first lap. More worrying was how hard the front-runners found it to lap slower traffic and the pre-season fears that the aerodynamic changes to the cars would make it harder to overtake certainly appear to have some foundation.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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