Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Steals Win For Mercedes in 2019 Russian Grand Prix

It was a roller coaster Sunday (Sept. 29) for Mercedes in the 2019 Russian Grand Prix. But when the smoke cleared, they found themselves still undefeated in Sochi.

With a well-timed Virtual Safety Car – courtesy Sebastian VettelLewis Hamilton secured the German marque’s sixth straight win in this race. Hamilton stole away what could have been a Ferrari sweep, leading Valtteri Bottas to the line and relegating Charles Leclerc to the third step on the podium.

It was a disappointing day for the Scuderia. He had a pretty strong grip on the race through the first 20 laps, albeit with some controversy. 

A huge start from Vettel put the German in front with a dive around a somewhat-passive Leclerc into the first turn. However, his lead was quickly erased by a safety car for Romain Grosjean. The Haas, through no fault of his own, ended up in the turn 4 barriers after Antonio Giovinazzi tried to stuff his Alfa Romeo between the Frenchman and Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault.

It was also a good start for the pair of McLaren drivers a little further back in the running order. Carlos Sainz split his Mercedes teammates, clipping Bottas at the first turn and jumping into fourth. Meanwhile, Lando Norris got by Nico Hulkenberg to move into sixth.

Once the race restarted, Ferrari’s drama started to unfold. Leclerc, having punched a hole for his teammate from the pole on the opening run down to turn 1, implied it was a prearranged strategy to let Vettel by. The plans were supposedly for the teammates to swap positions once they had built a gap to Hamilton. 

But Vettel, pushing to remain in front, quickly put three seconds between himself and his younger teammate, repeatedly setting the fastest lap of the race. His speed frustrated Leclerc, who was having trouble picking up the pace. Leclerc also proved unable to put a big interval between himself and Hamilton.

With a four-second gap, there wasn’t much Vettel, or Ferrari, could do to rectify the situation at the moment.

That all changed on lap 23, when Ferrari brought Leclerc into the pits. Leclerc opted for the medium-compound Pirellis, giving the youngster a chance at the undercut. 

With fresh tires, Leclerc ticked off a number of quick laps, setting the fastest lap of the race and shrinking his gap to Vettel.

On lap 27, Vettel finally dove into pit lane, but had lost enough time to his teammate that Leclerc jumped the four-time world champion in the running order. It seemed like he would wind up in the lead.

However, a few laps later, disaster struck for Ferrari. Vettel was forced to pull off with an MGU-K issue, bringing out a virtual safety car. Yet to pit up to that point, Hamilton was able to stop for new tires with the field neutralized, gifting Mercedes the lead. 

During the VSC, George Russell stuffed his Williams into the tires after a brake failure, bringing out a full safety car. With both of the Mercedes on soft tires and Leclerc on the medium compound, Ferrari brought in their remaining driver to match the Silver Arrows. It gave the top two positions in the order to Hamilton and Bottas. 

The race restarted on lap 33 and Bottas played a bit of defense on Leclerc, who struggled for a few laps to get by the Finnish driver. Even with the aid of DRS, Bottas was able to keep Leclerc at arm’s length, letting Hamilton pull further and further away.

After falling back to regroup, Leclerc again closed the gap, but was still unable to get the better of Bottas. And with just 10 laps left, the Monaco native was quickly running out of time.

With Hamilton cruising at the head of the field, Leclerc’s focus turned to breaking up a Mercedes 1-2 finish. But with less than five laps remaining, Bottas continued to keep the Ferrari in his mirrors.

Eventually, Leclerc ran out of time. Hamilton ran away with the win and Bottas secured the top two steps on the podium for Mercedes. The victory further extended Hamilton’s lead in the points chase and Mercedes’ stranglehold on the Constructor’s Championship, too. Hamilton now holds a 73-point advantage over his teammate Bottas while Mercedes finds itself ahead of Ferrari by a whopping 162 points.

Just off the podium, Max Verstappen closed out a quiet day with a fourth-place result. He was followed home by his Red Bull Racing teammate, Alex Albon, who recovered nicely after starting from pit road after a Saturday crash. The fifth-place finish tied his career-best performance.

Sainz, capitalizing off his good start, led a double-points finish for McLaren, running sixth. Norris ended the day in eighth, one spot behind Sergio Perez and his Racing Point machine.


Kevin Magnussen was able to bring home a couple of points for the Haas team, finishing ninth in spite of a five-second time penalty. Behind Magnussen, Hulkenberg closed out the points-paying positions with a 10th-place result, recovering from a mishap on pit lane.



The Formula One championship will now move on to the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Sunday, Oct. 13.

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How a team can expect a driver to give up ANY position during a (real) race is beyond me.

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