Russia
Credit: Racing Point media site

Valtteri Bottas won the Russian GP this weekend, a somewhat surprise result although not when considering Mercedes has won every race at Sochi.

There were some good moments of action across the race and surprise results in the midfield battle, especially compared to what was expected coming into the weekend.

Here we look at the top achievers and underachievers over the weekend, where several drivers scored good results for their teams and their place in the driver market.

Winner – Valtteri Bottas

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He didn’t have the best weekend performance-wise, but that all goes out the window as he scored his second win of the season.

For all the Mercedes dominance this season – Bottas has only finished off the podium twice this season – he’d only taken the same amount of wins as Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.

Yesterday he did everything he needed to once Hamilton was out the picture, kept a decent gap to Max Verstappen who never looked like closing in and kept it clean apart from a slight wiggle in the last sector of the last lap.

The Monza result seemed a big one for Bottas, a rare slip-up for Hamilton where Bottas could’ve taken a serious chunk of points from his rival but only finished two places ahead in the end.

Now he’s taken his second win is his championship challenge back on? No, it isn’t.

Loser – Lewis Hamilton

It had to be like this, didn’t it? All the hype about Schumacher’s record, Netflix in town to film the coronation and a Grand Prix that Mercedes has never lost at, it all seemed set up for Stevenage’s finest.

He survived a major scare in Q2 to take pole position and from that point it all looked set up for Hamilton, the only potential problem looking like his soft tyres to start the race, as opposed to the optimum mediums for Verstappen and Bottas.

But from the drive to the grid his race for the win was over, as he performed two illegal practice starts which earned him a five-second penalty for each.

We saw Hamilton more frustrated this weekend than normal, although by Eifel he’ll surely be back focussed fully on the win.

Winner – Max Verstappen

Verstappen seems to have his best races at circuits where Red Bull aren’t expected to do well – most notably Silverstone – and here it looked as if they’d be fully in a battle for third against Racing Point, McLaren and Renault.

Verstappen yet again defied expectations though, firstly in qualifying where he produced a monster lap to place second on the grid.

While Hamilton’s hotlap heroics rightly garnered the Saturday headlines, Verstappen’s Q3 was the best lap of the session and showed he had the pace to be at the sharp end of the action.

In the race he made a poor start and came under pressure from Daniel Ricciardo in fourth, but from then on he drove flawlessly and kept pace with the Mercedes for much of the second stint.

Loser – McLaren

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McLaren has had a few off weekends this season, scoring just two points at Hungary and the 70th Anniversary GP, but this is the first time they’ve finished a weekend pointless since Mexico last year.

Carlos Sainz especially had looked good in the early part of the weekend and seemed to have a decent shot at a top-five finish, but any hopes of that were ended when he messed up rejoining the track at Turn 2, leading to the safety car.

That also ruined Lando Norris’ race as he ran over debris and had to pit early.

It was the right call to gamble and put him on a super-long stint to the end, but in the end he came up just short and had to pit to outside the points.

But we did get to see Norris in a good scrap with Alex Albon and George Russell so it wasn’t all bad.

Loser – Renault

This may be a bit harsh, they gained points on all their rivals for third place in the constructors championship after all.

But coming into the weekend it looked (again) like they’d be in contention lead the battle behind the Mercedes and that pace just never materialised.

Ricciardo’s fifth is still a good result, but it showed so much promise early on as he passed Verstappen, and in the end he was also off the pace or Perez.

Ocon’s seventh place, behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and under intense pressure from Daniil Kvyat, isn’t really the battle Renault would have wanted to be involved in coming into the weekend.

Winner – Charles Leclerc

The Monegasque almost went unnoticed in sixth place, but it was another brilliant display that showed why Ferrari have locked him down until 2024.

Daniel Ricciardo was clearly in the next class up but he did so well to stay ahead of Esteban Ocon in the other Renault and he was one of the highest movers from qualifying, where he was eleventh.

He was probably lucky to escape a penalty for his shunt into Lance Stroll on lap one – something the Canadian wasn’t happy about – but the race was better for it. Maybe that’s something the FIA should take not of?

By contrast, Sebastian Vettel had another difficult weekend, crashing in qualifying and then being nowhere in the race – he was fourth out of the six of the Ferrari-powered cars on the grid

Winner – Sergio Pérez

To finish eight seconds behind Hamilton is a remarkable achievement for Perez in the Racing Point, and after an up-and-down season he’s finally looking back to his best.

Since the news broke the Vettel will replace him at the team next season he’s secured back-to-back top-five finishes and a lot of teams on the grid should be looking at him as an option for next year.

His overtake up the inside of Daniel Ricciardo was brilliant, both setting it up through the right-left from turn two into three and then staying right on the limit of the throttle around the long left-hand bend.

As mentioned above, Stroll was unlucky to have his race cut so short and the team could’ve been on for a double top-five finish, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Winner – Daniil Kvyat

We saw with Hamilton that hype doesn’t always translate to success in your big race.

But it was also a big race for home hero Daniil Kvyat, and he delivered to beat Pierre Gasly for the second race running.

He was coming on strong at the end of the race and was really pushing Ocon for seventh place, and while he had to settle for eighth that is still his second best result since Belgium 2019.

However, it was also a good weekend in F2 for Yuki Tsunoda who looks a big rival for Kvyat’s seat in 2021, so looking back over the season post-Abu Dhabi this could a bit different for Kvyat.

Loser – Alex Albon

The third Red Bull member in this list, after the high of his first podium at Mugello Albon endured a torrid weekend at Sochi.

He made it into Q3 but qualified tenth, eight thousandsths of a second behind Gasly, but after an early pitstops he was out of contention for the top five, and his eventual tenth place is nowhere near what is required.

He was passed by Gasly at the end of the race too, which neither he, Christian Horner or Helmut Marko will have enjoyed seeing.

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