Lewis Hamilton seizes victory to end Ferrari's winning run
Mercedes claim first win in 4 races, after Vettel refused to hand back lead to Leclerc
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton snatched victory in the Russian Grand Prix in a surprise Mercedes one-two yesterday after Ferrari argued over team orders and were undone by a virtual safety car.
Hamilton also banked a bonus point for the fastest lap of the race to stretch his lead to 73 points over teammate and closest rival Valtteri Bottas, who finished second, with five rounds remaining.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc finished third after an early radio controversy with Sebastian Vettel, whose retirement on the 28th of 53 laps brought out the virtual safety car that ironically cemented Hamilton's lead.
The victory was the 82nd of Hamilton's career, and ninth of the season, leaving him nine short of Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91.
"It's just incredible to have this result today, considering how quick they (Ferrari) were off the start," said Hamilton of his first win since Hungary in the first week of August.
"Just keeping up with them was an incredibly hard task."
Ferrari had arrived in Sochi after a hat-trick of wins, looking set for another triumph after Leclerc seized pole position for the fourth race in a row.
But Ferrari tripped themselves up with a strategy that involved Leclerc allowing Vettel, starting in third place, to slipstream the youngster off the start and take the lead into turn two.
The deal was for the German to hand back the place once Ferrari had settled into a one-two formation. Instead, Vettel began banging in a series of fastest laps to Leclerc's consternation.
"Sebastian will let you by next lap," the Monegasque, 21, was told over the radio on lap four.
But Vettel, a four-time world champion, refused to ease off and said Leclerc would need to close a gap of some 1.3 seconds to make that possible.
Leclerc, who was undone in Singapore by a strategy that worked in Vettel's favour, vented his feelings on the team radio.
"You put me behind. I respected everything," he said as it became clear Vettel, winner in Singapore after more than a year off the top of the podium, had no intention of easing off.
"I respected. I gave him the slipstream," he added later.
Leclerc pitted from second place on lap 23 and came back in fourth. Vettel made his stop three laps later, trading places with Leclerc while Hamilton led.
Two laps later, Vettel's race ended when a power failure saw him stop at Turn 15 and the virtual safety car period gave Hamilton the chance to take a free pitstop and come back out ahead of Leclerc.
The Monegasque pitted again on lap 31 when the real safety car was deployed after George Russell crashed in his Williams, resuming in third and unable to pass Bottas. - REUTERS
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX (Top 5)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr 33 min 38.992 sec
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +3.829s
3 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +5.212s
4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +14.210s
5 Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +38.348s
DRIVER STANDINGS (Top 5)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 322 points
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 249 pts
3 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 215 pts
4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 212 pts
5 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 194 pts
CONSTRUCTOR (Top 5)
1 Mercedes 571 points
2 Ferrari 409 pts
3 Red Bull 311 pts
4 McLaren 101 pts
5 Renault 68 pts