What is 2021 coming too, when even a track like Sochi can give us a great race, full of overtakes, strategy and heartbreak. The only thing to top this, would be a monsoon at Abu Dhabi!
Hamilton ended up maximising his weekend by taking the win, his 100th in the sport, after not starting the race very well. However, a combination of good strategy and strong pace from Lewis, allowed him to claw his way to the front, and be right behind Norris. If it hadn’t been for the wet period, he probably wouldn’t have won, but Mercedes and Hamilton showed their experience in those conditions, as they outsmarted McLaren to take the win. It was a rewarding way to get a century of wins, as he continues to show his prowess in Motorsport. Given what happened with Max, it wasn’t an ideal weekend for the team, and Lewis may still need to take an engine penalty, so there are many more twists and turns to come!
It was a rather topsy turvy race for Verstappen, who flew through the field early on, to be only a few seconds behind Lewis at the half race point. Yet, just like Hamilton had in the first stint, Max then got stuck behind Ricciardo, and whilst protecting his softer tyres, fell back slightly behind Alonso. He was saved by the rain, as both his skills in the wet, and pitting at the right time, meant he climbed right up to second. They have to be ecstatic with that result, as they have barely lost anything despite taking an engine penalty. From now on, Red Bull need to be flawless, and pressurize Mercedes, if they want to win the title.
Much like Max, Carlos too had an up and down day, as he led the early stages of the race, until the Ferrari once again suffered with graining, like we saw at France, and was forced to pit early, which severely compromised his race. He was holding on to 3rd somehow on very old hard’s, and pitted with Verstappen for inters, to get another podium for Ferrari. On a power hungry track like this, it was a great day for Ferrari, especially as the new engine in Leclerc’s car performed very well.
Ricciardo was on roadblock duty all race as I mentioned before, although his pace was pretty good on the whole. It was the stint behind Russell that cost him compared to his teammate, and then with Sainz too towards the end. It is good to see that he is about where he should be in that car, and his experience meant he knew when to pit in the wet period, which gained him a few places. Bottas is a lucky man, as before the rain he was down in 14th, doing nothing at all. He initially made good progress, but it seems that once Max passed him, he just gave up, and even fell back from midfield drivers. Even motivation from the Mercedes team didn’t work, until he was the first to pit for inters, which shot him up to 5th.
Alonso used all his skill and cunning to claw back some points against Aston Martin, including practicing the runoff area at Turn 2, which worked well on Lap 1. His pace was comparable to those around him, and so 6this a great result for the team. Looking at where his teammate was all day, it shows how good he still is, despite his age, and the time he had out of the sport.
What can you say about Norris and McLaren this weekend! They were perfect all race, and made the right call in going long on the first stint, to give them fresh tyres when Hamilton charged at the end. Without the rain, I do think he could have held him off, as Lewis had stalled out behind him for a few laps. At the start of the rain period, Lando was actually pulling away from Lewis, which is rather incredible to see. So, who made the mistake on the call not to pit? Obviously, we don’t hear all the radio communications, but from what I heard, both the team and Norris could have handled it better. The team should have been clearer on what the forecast was, and what their view was on the situation, as the driver can’t see everything. Then, Lando was a bit too stubborn in staying out, which is understandable, given it was his first chance at victory. Overall, I would put it more on the team’s handling of the situation, as you need to support the driver more in those scenarios. Hopefully, Lando can come back from this stronger, as he was brilliant for most of the race, and has a great future ahead of him.
Unnoticed by anyone, Raikkonen managed to bag some more points for Alfa Romeo, as he was another to dive in for the inters. It is a nice way for him to return to racing, as he nears towards retirement. Unlike Bottas, Perez was doing all he could to help Red Bull, as he climbed up, to be right behind Lewis in the 1st stint, which meant he couldn’t fully focus on passing Daniel. Also, if Red Bull had nailed the pit stop, he could have put on a late charge, to try and pass Hamilton, and possibly even get the win. As it was though, he fell into the pack with Max, and pitted a lap too late for inters, dropping him almost out of the points.
It is funny how sport works, in that a few months ago, points for Williams were nothing more than a dream, and now we are used to it, and aren’t surprised that Russell finished 10th. As expected, he didn’t have the pace for a podium, and held up the pack to begin with, but was able to fall in line, on the edge of the points before the rain came. A good decision of when to pit, netted him another point for the team, in an unbelievable year for them.
It could have been an equal or better points day for Aston Martin, compared to Alpine, as Stroll was right up front for most of the race. However, a mixture of being on the wrong tyres, and incidents both between the two Aston’s and Gasly, meant it wasn’t to be in the end. Gasly himself was unlucky to be caught up in it with Stroll, although he wasn’t on course for a lot of points anyway. Leclerc, apart from Norris, was the biggest loser from the rain, as he stayed out with Lando, and lost out on a top 5 result. His pace was stellar all day, as he could stay with Verstappen, suggesting that the new engine is rather good for that car. Could Ferrari still put pressure on McLaren for 3rd in the constructors?
Despite not winning the race, you have to say that Red Bull, with Max at least, were the biggest winners from the race. Whereas teams like Ferrari and McLaren, have some lessons to learn, on why they weren’t able to win the race, in the extraordinary circumstances we saw!
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