Team orders from Mercedes saw Lewis Hamilton win the 2018 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix from Valtteri Bottas with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel ending up third at Sochi.
It was a straightforward start with pole-sitter Bottas leading Hamilton from Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen at Sochi with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen behind having a storming run by making up six places on the opening lap.
It wasn’t the best of starts though for the two Torro Rosso Honda drivers as both Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly suffered spins due to suspected brake issues and were forced to retire after four laps.
At the same time, the mover in midfield was Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who cleared Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon on Lap 1 and then made a bold move around the outside in Turn 3 on Haas’ Kevin Magnussen to take fifth.
The Dane then came under pressure from Ocon but held on with Perez, Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson in the Top 10. The two Renault drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz on the soft tyres didn’t make up any places.
At the front though, Bottas led the way until Lap 12 when he decided to pit for the soft compound. The Finn was followed by Vettel on the next lap while Hamilton stayed out which worked out wrong for Mercedes.
Hamilton came out behind Vettel and straightaway challenged the German for track position. The Ferrari defended hard but Hamilton surprised him with a move on the inside in the right-hander to retake the place.
The movement from Vettel under braking was investigation by the stewards but no action was warranted. By that time, it was Verstappen leading on a different strategy with Bottas ahead of Hamilton and Vettel.
They were all closely bunched up together as Mercedes then issued the team orders for Bottas to let through Hamilton in Turn 13 which the Finn did so but later on questioned the move of the team.
Hamilton, meanwhile, closed in on Verstappen and tried to move past on the track but the Dutchman held on until his late pit stop. The British driver took the lead with Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ricciardo in the Top 6.
The fight for the best of the rest settled as well with Leclerc leading comfortably. A late stop for Hulkenberg created some doubts for Haas and Force India but the Renault driver’s pace went away by the end of the race.
The Force India drivers also went for team orders as they asked Ocon to give the place to Perez to try and get Magnussen. But it was too late by then as the Mexican couldn’t really push the Dane for eighth.
He was asked to give back the place to Ocon after the threat from Hulkenberg dwindled which they did calmly. Up ahead, there was some confusion as Bottas continued to question of he will be allowed back into the lead.
However, the team including Toto Wolff said the position will be maintained and that they will have a talk after the race. This allowed Hamilton to take his eighth win of 2018 and increase his lead to 50 points over Vettel who was third.
Raikkonen came home in fourth with Verstappen and Ricciardo settling in for fifth and sixth respectively despite a late pit stop. The two fought back as expected from the back to finish behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
Ferrari-bound Leclerc delivered a solid result in seventh after his early moves with Magnussen also settling in eighth from Ocon and Perez in the Top 10. Grosjean missed on a point but he overtook late-stopper Hulkenberg.
The Renault driver’s pace was nowhere on expected level on the fresher tyres. Ericsson dropped away from points too to be 13th after a second stop with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in 14th fending off Williams’ Lance Stroll.
The two were only 0.935s aloof on the chequered flag. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne finished 16th from Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin – all the three drivers finished two laps down with drivers ahead uptill Magnussen a lap down.