Front to back: the Russian Grand Prix

How every F1 team and driver fared on Sunday at the Sochi street circuit.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 10th, finished 2nd
Nico Rosberg: qualified 1st, finished 1st
Rosberg’s fourth straight win this season and seventh in succession overall had its roots in Saturday’s qualifying, where a gearbox penalty for Sebastian Vettel dropped the Ferrari driver off the front row to seventh (and, as fate would have it, into the middle of Sunday’s first-lap mess), and Mercedes teammate Hamilton to 10th after another turbocharger failure that plagued the world champion for the second straight race. Rosberg led every lap from pole and took the fastest lap of the race for the first ‘grand slam’ of his career, while Hamilton’s surge to second owed plenty to ending the chaotic first lap in fifth place. Any chances of a push for the win ended as Mercedes had to manage a water leak in his engine, and after four races, he’s already 43 points behind his teammate. In Hamilton’s favour? The longest season in F1 history still has 17 Grands Prix left to run. He might just need all of them, too.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 2nd, did not finish
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, finished 3rd
There was some conjecture over whether Vettel’s first-lap clash with teammate Raikkonen in China was prompted by Daniil Kvyat’s robust overtaking manoeuvre at the first corner; two weeks later on the streets of Sochi, there was no debating Kvyat’s role in Vettel’s demise, as he hit the German twice on the first lap and spat the Ferrari into the inside barrier at turn three just seconds into the race. After coming into this season having finished the first lap of every race since the 2008 British Grand Prix, Vettel has become a lap one spectator twice in the past three races – and as his profanity-peppered tirade on the team radio made abundantly clear, he wasn’t thrilled about it. Raikkonen had no answer for Hamilton but easily covered off the Williams of compatriot Valtteri Bottas for Ferrari’s 700th all-time podium and his second podium this year to jump to third in the drivers’ standings. Random stat: it was the veteran’s first podium at a day race since 2013 – his podiums since have come in Bahrain (twice), Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Front to back: what happened in Shanghai?

Felipe Massa:
qualified 5th, finished 5th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 3rd, finished 4th
Williams had a podium finish on their minds after qualifying, but had to settle for 22 world championship points after Bottas was 19 seconds behind Raikkonen for third, and Massa another 24 seconds back in fifth. The Finn made a strong start from the front row before falling victim to Hamilton on lap 19, and despite some slick work from the best pit crew in the business this season, couldn’t keep Raikkonen behind him after the tyre stops two laps later. Massa was some way off Bottas in both qualifying and the race, but equalled his finishing position in Australia to continue his consistent record this season.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 6th, finished 11th
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 8th, finished 15th
Oh dear. Not a race to remember for the Milton Keynes crew, with Ricciardo making a sluggish getaway from fifth on the grid, Kvyat nudging Vettel into him at the second corner, and then Ricciardo’s roll-the-dice strategy of fitting the medium-compound tyres in an attempt to get to the end backfiring, the Australian needing a second stop and finishing outside the points for the first time all season. Kvyat earned Vettel’s ire after their first-lap clash, and served a 10-second stop-and-go penalty in the pits that saw him drive a largely lonely race thereafter at his home Grand Prix. To quote team principal Christian Horner: “Our race was totally screwed at the first corner.” One to forget.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 13th, did not finish
Sergio Perez: qualified 7th, finished 9th
For the second straight year, Hulkenberg’s race in Russia lasted mere seconds; the German had elected to start on a counter tyre strategy to most of the rest of the field and looked set to feature towards the front in the middle stages, but got clouted at the second turn by Esteban Gutierrez and was out on the spot. Perez got clipped by Ricciardo as a consequence of the Kvyat/Vettel clash and spent most of the race in recovery mode, just failing to pass Romain Grosjean in the final laps for eighth. It was a far cry from his podium at the same circuit last season, but some reward for a convincing weekend of pace.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 18th, finished 13th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 7th
Finally, a breakthrough for Team Enstone, with Magnussen benefiting from the first-lap mayhem to slide into the top 10, and staying there for the duration with a polished drive for a good haul of points. Teammate Palmer felt much happier with the car in Sochi after a new floor was installed on Saturday, but just missed out on topping his season-best 11th from Melbourne in his maiden Grand Prix. A bright weekend for the team with the brightest livery on the grid.

Toro Rosso
Max Verstappen:
qualified 9th, did not finish
Carlos Sainz: qualified 11th, finished 12th
Verstappen’s race always seemed destined to end early when his Ferrari engine coughed and spluttered as he exited pit lane to head to the grid – the Dutchman was doing his future employment prospects at Red Bull’s senior team no harm at all when the powerplant finally gave up on lap 34 when he was running inside the top six. Sainz was disappointed to just miss Q3 on Saturday, and his mood didn’t change much on Sunday when he was assessed a 10-second penalty on lap 26 for shoving Palmer off track as they battled for position. Eleventh on the road became 12th when his penalty was applied after the race, losing a spot to Ricciardo.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 19th, finished 16th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 22nd, finished 14th
Ericsson took a gamble on soft tyres from the very back and ran inside the top 10 for the first part of the race after picking his way through the various incidents on lap one; reality ensured thereafter, but he at least beat teammate Nasr, who had to make an unscheduled pit stop for new tyres on lap 16 after picking up a puncture from the debris that littered the circuit. The Swiss team continues to struggle financially, with team boss Monisha Kaltenborn not in Russia for the weekend, and team manager Beat Zehnder admitting the potential costs of any rule changes for 2017 would be “really difficult”.

Jenson Button:
qualified 12th, finished 10th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 14th, finished 6th
A double points finish for McLaren for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix last July, a span of 12 races. Alonso gained seven spots on the first lap to move expertly into the top 10 and stayed there to open his 2016 account, while Button’s progress was more gradual, passing Sainz late in the race to take the final world championship point on offer. It’s not much for a man who was world champion in 2009, but it’s a small step in the right direction for both driver and team.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 20th, finished 18th
Rio Haryanto: qualified 21st, did not finish
A tough weekend for the minnows on the grid. Wehrlein was never comfortable on the billiard-table smooth Sochi track surface all weekend and was last of the 18 classified finishers two laps down, while Haryanto was an innocent victim in the turn two chaos of the opening lap, finding himself sidelined in the aftermath of Gutierrez ramming Hulkenberg’s Force India.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 15th, finished 8th
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 16th, finished 17th
After a frustrating race more befitting the new team they are in China, Grosjean was back to his points-scoring ways in Russia, resisting Perez late to finish eighth, and moving up to a heady seventh overall in the drivers’ standings. Gutierrez was one of just three drivers to start on the soft tyre, but his atypical strategic choice counted for little after crashing with Hulkenberg at turn two and being slapped with a drive-through penalty, his quest for points this season remaining elusive.



  1. The Webberesque conspiracy theories around the team sabotaging Hamilton are amusing to me 🙂

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