The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Russia: Bottas Grabs First Win

04-05-2017

By Jack Target

What a season this is turning out to be.

The cries of wanting competition in Formula 1 were answered when Ferrari took victories in two of the first three races, but would they just become another team who would go on and dominate? It looked possible after they locked out the front row in Russia but then came back Mercedes as Valtteri Bottas jumped off the line to take the chequered flag for his first win in F1.

The race itself would be ranked on the low end for entertainment this year but the first and last lap were pivotal as the season took another intriguing twist.

The build up to the race was looking superb for Ferrari. On the back of those victories they were fastest in the practice sessions in Sochi and had both cars on the front row for the first time in nine years. Despite the end result the performance this weekend was still one with plenty of positives for Maurizio Arrivabene and co.

Away from the battle at the top, the drama at McLaren rolls on with Eddie Jordan, who has now become the predictor of the future like some kind of Formula 1 wizard, telling the nation that McLaren would switch to Mercedes engines next year and that Fernando Alonso would move back to Renault. Those two are yet to come to fruition but a day after he told the world what would happen with Sauber, the Swiss team confirmed they would be using Honda engines next year. 

Sauber have been one of the bottom markers this year, their 25th in F1, and once again had a troubling time in qualifying as Marcus Ericsson crashed out at the end of Q1. His teammate also failed to get out of the first round of qualifying before they finished in the bottom two of the remaining drivers on Sunday. 

It was a mixed weekend for McLaren though as Stoffel Vandoorne managed to complete a full race, a first for the team in orange this season. This was a welcome break, especially after Alonso’s car lost power on the formation lap. It was yet another sad sight for the two-time champion who heads off for a week of practice in the Indy car. 

Also going out in Q1 with a crash was Jolyon Palmer. He had a tough weekend and keeps doing more damage to his Renault. The Brit followed that up by finding himself in a very small gap, that was just too small, bumping in to Roman Grosjean and ending both of their races early on. Compared to Nico Hulkenberg in the other Renault, who qualified 8th, Palmer has struggled this season and the rumours of the return of Alonso will only intensify if he doesn’t improve.

Many were predicting that this could be the race that Ferrari get their first pole of the season and it turned out that way. However we were blessed with the presence of two Ferraris at the top as Kimi Raikkonen qualified 2nd. It could have even been pole for the Finn but he took the last corner a little too wide and left the gap open for Sebby to clinch the top spot.

Title challenger Lewis Hamilton had one of those weekend’s where he just went missing. It happens every now and then where something doesn’t quite go right and he almost switches off. He managed to qualify only 4th which was a bit of a shock and was relatively nowhere to be seen on Sunday. With the result that was to follow and with Ferrari getting stronger, he can’t afford too many of these types of weekends. 

His teammate on the other hand had a fine weekend. His quick start past the two prancing horses was almost expected, going in to the long straight before turn two. Once he was there, the team managed to get their strategy right and he saw the race through. 

The chasing pack headed by Red Bull had another tough weekend which saw one of their drivers not finish the race due to some car problems. This week it was Daniel Ricciardo who lost his brakes, whilst his teammate Max Verstappen had another lonely race in 5th. 

To be honest not a lot happened before the last few laps in a race that saw very minimal overtaking. Both Force India drivers had another fine weekend, with Sergio Perez finishing 6th and Esteban Ocon breaking his spell of 10th place finishes in 7th. Perez has now established himself as the top driver outside the top three teams. Surely another chance at one of the big guns is coming his way soon, maybe even at Ferrari. 

We also had another funny moment over the team radio when Raikonnen got confused as to who was leading the grand prix. Assuming Hamilton was in the Mercedes that took the lead on the opening lap, he seemed very puzzled when he was told they were behind Bottas. He soon calmed down when he was told what had happened.

Vettel left it very late to change his tyres in a move that seemed like Ferrari wanted him to have a quick finish and chase down Bottas. He managed to do just that, getting within a second of the Mercedes with a lap to go, but the Finn kept his cool and secured his first F1 victory. He may have had some help from his former teammate at Williams, Felipe Massa, who was less willing to let Sebby through to chase down the leader.

We were left with a rather different podium as two Finns stepped on the podium alongside Vettel. It was very strange not to see Hamilton there but there’ll be no doubt he will be back. In the meantime his teamate had all the glory as he became the fifth man from Finland to win a grand prix, quite the achievement for a country so small.

We have another two week gap before we head to Barcelona for the Spanish GP with the season finely poised. Vettel still leads the drivers championship despite the set back on Sunday but Mercedes now lead the constructors by one point. 

The weekend was going perfectly for Ferrari until the first couple of corners on Sunday but even the fans in red will know this result was good for Formula 1. The main battle may well be between Vettel and Hamilton but Bottas has shown he can win with his new team and Kimi gave us enough to show he could also end up on the top step. All of this without mentioning the improvements Red Bull will make later on in the season. 

So yes, what a season this is turning out to be.