Valtteri Bottas claimed his first win since the opening race of the season with a controlled drive to the chequered flag at the FIA Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix after championship leader and early race leader Lewis Hamilton dropped down the order following two penalties for pre-race practice start infringements.
On two occasions in the build up to the race Hamilton performed practice starts outside of the designated area. The incidents were place under investigation ahead prior to the start and a brace of five-second penalties were served during the opening phase of the race.
Hamilton served the penalties during his sole pit stop and dropped from the top of the order to 11th place. He eventually rose to third place behind fellow front-row starter Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing.
When the lights went out Verstappen made a solid start but behind him Valtteri Bottas made a better getaway and he passed the Dutchman as they powered towards Turn 2. Verstappen tried to attack Bottas around the outside but had to back out and went across the run-off area. That lost him another place to Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in Turn 4 but the Red Bull driver immediately fought back reclaimed third place in the following corner.
Further back Carlos Sainz was also forced to use the run-off at Turn 2 but the McLaren driver lost control as he did so and he hit the barrier, breaking his front left suspension and scattering debris as he slid back onto the track.
Moments later, in Turn 4, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc made contact with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll with the result that the Canadian was bounced out of the race.
Racing resumed at the start of lap six and Hamilton held his advantage over Bottas and Verstappen, with the Renaults of Ocon and Ricciardo in fourth and fifth place respectively. Hamilton was then handed his sanctions and Mercedes elected to pit the race leader on lap 17 where he served the penalties before taking on hard tyres. When he rejoined it was in 11th place, behind the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
Meanwhile, at the back of the field Alex Albon was involved in a thrilling battle with old Formula 2 rivals Lando Norris and George Russell. Albon first used the slipstream and DRS to pass Norris and then on lap 13 he forced Russell into an error and after the Williams driver locked up Albon powered through to P16. Albon then profited from pit stops from cars ahead to rise to 11th place behind Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen who had started on hard tyres. However, the Thai driver’s march towards the points would be shortlived and he later slipped back again after pitting again at half distance for a set of medium tyres.
Verstappen made his sole pit stop on lap 26, taking on hard tyres in an excellent 1.9s stop. Bottas followed suit at the end of the next lap and resumed in the lead with Leclerc in second ahead of Verstappen. The Ferrari driver was next to pit and after hard tyre starter Daniil Kvyat finally pitted on lap 31, Hamilton rose to third place, eight seconds behind Verstappen and 20 behind Bottas.
As the race entered its final third, Albon again began to move up the order and he returned to the points when a Virtual Safety Car for damaged bollards in Turn 2 prompted AlphaTauri to pit Pierre Gasly for a second time.
The caution was short, however, and when it ended Albon was able power past Gasly as the Frenchman trundled towards the pit exit. However, with fresh medium tyres on board Gasly was soon fighting his way back and when Albon tussled with Lando Norris, the AlphaTauri driver closed in and passed Albon under DRS to take P10.
Norris hard tyres were shot, however, and within a handful of laps Albon forced an error from the McLaren driver. Norris locked up heavily on lap 48 and Albon power past to finally edge into the points positions.
With just five laps remaining the order settled and Bottas duly took his ninth career victory ahead of Verstappen who claimed his 38th podium finish and team’s 178th.
Behind third-placed Hamilton, Perez took a well-deserved fourth place ahead of Ricciardo while Leclerc also put in a strong performance to take sixth place for Ferrari. Ocon took seventh place and there was a double points finish for AlphaTauri with Kvyat taking eighth ahead of team-mate Gasly.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Race
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 1:34'00.364
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 53 1:34'08.093 7.729
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1:34'23.093 22.729
4 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 53 1:34'30.922 30.558
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53 1:34'52.429 52.065
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 1:35'02.550 1'02.186
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 53 1:35'08.370 1'08.006
8 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 53 1:35'09.104 1'08.740
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 53 1:35'30.130 1'29.766
10 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 53 1:35'38.224 1'37.860
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 52 1:34'12.509 1 Lap
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 52 1:34'14.419 1 Lap
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 52 1:34'15.467 1 Lap
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 52 1:34'16.339 1 Lap
15 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 52 1:34'26.176 1 Lap
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 52 1:34'53.867 1 Lap
17 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 52 1:34'54.908 1 Lap
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 52 1:35'22.195 1 Lap
Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 0 Collision
Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 0 Collision