Lap 31/53: Vettel pits! And rejoins in 15th place. Up front, Bottas leads, with Verstappen in second and Hamilton now third. Hamilton is more than 21 seconds down on his teammate Bottas, and Bottas is going to be able to race until the end. He is also 12.5sec ahead of Verstappen in second. So barring disasters, Bottas wins.
As they stand, with 23 laps to go. The 1 denotes one pitstop, or indeed 2 in the case of Albon and Russell.
1 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes LEADER 1
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +12.197 1
3 Daniil KVYAT AlphaTauri +18.447 1
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +19.091 1
5 Sergio PEREZ Racing Point +23.996 1
6 Daniel RICCIARDO Renault +35.577 1
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +37.783 1
8 Esteban OCON Renault +39.764 1
9 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari +42.659 1
10 Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN Alfa Romeo Racing +44.207 1
11 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +45.321 1
12 Lando NORRIS McLaren +48.586 1
13 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +51.814 1
14 Romain GROSJEAN Haas F1 Team +55.056 1
15 Antonio GIOVINAZZI Alfa Romeo Racing +56.809 1
16 Alexander ALBON Red Bull Racing +67.870 2
17 Nicholas LATIFI Williams +73.639 1
18 George RUSSELL Williams +77.734 2
19 Carlos SAINZ McLaren
20 Lance STROLL Racing Point
Lap 29/53: Leclerc of Ferrari pits! He comes back out on track in seventh place.
Lap 27/53: Bottas pits! And he comes out still in first place. He will be able to make it to the end of the race on these tyres.
Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) is under investigation by the race stewards for failing to follow instructions. And he gets a five-second penalty.
Lap 26/53: Verstappen pits for the first time in his Red Bull, and comes out ahead of Hamilton. So Daniil Kvyat moves into third place on the road.
Lap 24/53: The current top three – Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc – have all yet to pit.
World champion Hamilton is catching Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) gradually. He is 8.2” behind.
Lap 21/53: Hamilton up to fifth!
The FIA have confirmed that Hamilton was punished for two separate violations of the rules regarding practice starts.
He has flown through the field in the last few laps … but he is 39” behind Bottas, our race leader.
Lap 19/53 – as they stand –
1 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +4.933
3 Sergio PEREZ Racing Point +14.642
4 Esteban OCON Renault +23.106
5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +25.271
6 Daniil KVYAT AlphaTauri +31.709
7 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +36.922 1
8 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +38.392
9 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari +39.664 1
10 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +42.996
11 Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN Alfa Romeo Racing +43.805 1
12 Daniel RICCIARDO Renault +45.862 1
13 Alexander ALBON Red Bull Racing +48.116 1
14 Lando NORRIS McLaren +49.207 1
15 Romain GROSJEAN Haas F1 Team +59.132 1
16 Antonio GIOVINAZZI Alfa Romeo Racing +60.911 1
17 Nicholas LATIFI Williams +74.915 1
18 George RUSSELL Williams +77.459 2
19 Carlos SAINZ McLaren (retired)
20 Lance STROLL Racing Point (retired)
Lap 18/53: “How far have I dropped back now?” Hamilton asks.
“You’re down to P11,” comes the reply.
Hamilton seemed to be questioning why he had to take the 10 seconds at that point.
Lap 16/53: Hamilton takes the 10-second penalty and rejoins the race in 11th place, behind his old rival Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. Hamilton has the hard-compound tyres and can go to the end of the race. Lando Norris pulls off a superb overtaking move to go 15th.
Lap 15/53: Whoops! It seems like Hamilton has refused his team orders to come in and pit. Meanwhile he sets the fastest time in the middle sector of the circuit. This is an intriguing situation. Hamilton is going to have to pit before long. And he knows that when he does, he is going to give up a 10-second penalty. Maybe his sheer racing instinct is keeping him from pitting and giving up that time …
Lap 14/53: As we know Hamilton’s soft tyres are going to be degrading fast. It looks like the team are getting ready to bring him in for a pitstop … which will of course include a 10-second penalty, and put him in seventh place behind Pierre Gasly.
Lap 12/53: The gap between Bottas in second and Hamilton is holding at around 1.5sec. Verstappen is 3” behind Bottas.
Lap 11/53: On the team radio, Hamilton is told about the penalty. “What happened?” he asks.
“Those starts going to the grid, you’ve got a penalty for each of them.”
So, he obviously did two practice starts, even if that was not immediately obvious from the TV pictures we saw earlier. It seems Hamilton will be able to serve the 10-second penalty at one pitstop. He is 1.502” ahead of Bottas at the moment. It seems quite a surprising mistake to make, but there it is. Hamilton doesn’t sound happy, in the least surprising news of the day.
Lap 9/53: So, Hamilton’s 10-second penalty has certainly spiced things up, allied to the fact he is on soft tyres. He leads the race by 1.407”
At the start, it looked for all money as if Bottas had beaten him into turn two, but somehow, Hamilton managed to keep his lead.
Hamilton penalised 10 seconds!
Hamilton has received two five-second penalties for the events pre-race, when he carried out a practice start outside of the designated area. It’s not entirely clear why he has been given two separate five-second penalties. Speculation as to whether he can serve a 10-second penalty in one hit?
Lap 7/53 – As they stand:
1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes
2 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes +1.125
3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +2.677
4 Esteban OCON Renault +3.791
5 Daniel RICCIARDO Renault +4.539
6 Sergio PEREZ Racing Point +5.174
7 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +6.603
8 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +7.339
9 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +8.367
10 Romain GROSJEAN Haas F1 Team +9.140
11 Daniil KVYAT AlphaTauri +9.716
12 Antonio GIOVINAZZI Alfa Romeo Racing +11.035
13 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari +11.544
14 Nicholas LATIFI Williams +12.612
15 Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN Alfa Romeo Racing +13.055
16 George RUSSELL Williams +14.416 1
17 Lando NORRIS McLaren +14.760 1
18 Alexander ALBON Red Bull Racing +15.523 1
19 Carlos SAINZ McLaren
20 Lance STROLL Racing Point
Lap 5/53: The safety car period is ending. George Russell (Williams), Lando Norris (McLaren), and Alex Albon (Red Bull) have all pitted and changed to hard compound tyres. So they may be able to get to the end of the race without stopping again.
Green flags wave and we are racing again. Hamilton leads, Bottas second, Verstappen third.
While the marshalls get the track cleaned up, we see an on-board shot of the start from Lando Norris’s car. There is a good view of Sainz’s shunt – Norris’s McLaren teammate careered across the road in front of him, shedding plenty of debris as a result. It seems Norris now has a problem with his steering.
Lap 1/53: There were two cars that went off track to the left. McLaren’s Sainz got it horribly wrong and smashed into the wall, and he is out of the race. Stroll, meanwhile, got a touch from behind and was sent spinning out as a result – was it from Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari? Stroll looks extremely unhappy, anyway, as his weekend has been ended through no fault of his own.
Lights out! Sainz crashes! Stroll is out! Safety car!
Oh wow. Bottas looked to have won the drag race into turn two with Hamilton, with both Mercedes getting a better start than Verstappen in the Red Bull. But he was forced off track, to the left, and Hamilton managed to keep his first place by accelerating out of the bend. Behind them it was busy to say the least. Sainz of McLaren went off track and crashed, and is out of the race. I think Lance Stroll (Racing Point) is out too. Safety car.
So, the investigation is ongoing, but the race is about to start. As has just been pointed out, the stewards can hardly ask the team for their explanation while they are getting ready for the race …
The formation lap has begun. The weather is excellent in Sochi, by the way. Sunny and 28C with 0% chance of rain.
A few stats: Hamilton has won four times in Russia already – and Mercedes have six wins out of six (this is the seventh Grand Prix in Sochi). The track is 5.848km / 3.6m long with 18 corners, six left and nine right.
No news on Hamilton either way, which we must assume is good news. The drivers’ championship leader, and world champion, starts on pole position for the race. Unless a serious curveball is thrown in the next five minutes. It seems the investigation is ongoing, having said all that …
Regardless of Hamilton’s attempt to match Schumacher’s 91 wins, one piece of history will definitely be made today: the Finn Raikkonen will draw level with the Rubens Barrichello’s all-time record of 322 race starts.
THE STARTING GRID
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 4. Sergio Pérez (Racing Point)
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
7. Esteban Ocon (Renault) 8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 10. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
11. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 12. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)
13. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) 14. George Russell (Williams)
15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 18. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams). 20. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
Speaking to Sky Sports, [and before he was under investigation, I believe] Hamilton explains why he thinks he will have his work cut out at the start: “We just have draggier cars this year, with more downforce … usually the left side gets the best start, there is not a lot I can do to stop Valtteri slipstreaming me. All I can do is cover the inside.”
Verstappen says: “The tow to turn two is massive, so I hope we can get a bit of an advantage there.”
Time for the Russian national anthem. Everyone is waiting for news on that possible punishment for Hamilton. The powers-that-be don’t have much time to deliver a verdict, and you can picture some pretty stressed-out conversations taking place behind closed doors right now about what to do.
The race is scheduled to start at 12.10pm BST. The cars are on the grid, with team staff and drivers milling around. Hamilton and several other drivers are now taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign – as usual it’s the slightly odd sight of half of the drivers taking a knee, and half of them choosing not to.
Sky Sports have just outlined the relevant regulations and have concluded – as a layman probably would – that Hamilton stopping in the pitlane exit for his practice start, with cars coming past him at high speed, was on the dangerous side. Will Hamilton face a punishment before the race starts?
I told you this would be exciting …
Hamilton under investigation pre-race
Breaking: Hamilton is under investigation for doing his practice start outside of the designated area. Pictures show Hamilton stationary on the exit to the pit lane – almost out on the track – which from a safety point of view is perhaps not ideal.
There was a huge crash in the F2 race a bit earlier, which led to it being abandoned, and also caused damage to parts of the safety padding at the side of the track. A bit of speedy repair work to be done before the F1 race begins …
Red Bull’s Christian Horner speaks to Sky on his hopes and aims for Max Verstappen’s start: “First of all, unlike the last two starts, I’m hoping he gets a decent start this week … the Honda guys have been working really hard on that. But it’s the dirty side of the grid, so the most important thing for him is to get in that tow as quickly as he can, behind Lewis. And then Lewis is starting, if you like, on the less preferable tyre. So it will be fascinating to see how that plays out.”
The Formula 1 season so far has provided a healthy amount of excitement, with the odd, inevitable procession thrown in, and the ingredients already in the pot for today’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi contain plenty of potential for drama.
Britain’s endlessly impressive world champion and the current drivers’ championship leader, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, produced pole position on Saturday under massive pressure, narrowly sneaking into Q3 after a couple of earlier mishaps left him with just over two minutes to deliver a lap good enough to make it into the final shake-up. He found a way to make Q3, and was then fearsomely fast in taking pole.
But if you think all that drama in qualifying now points to Hamilton leading into the first corner and accelerating away to another flawless victory, it seems things will not be quite that simple. Hamilton’s disrupted qualifying – he called it ‘horrible’ and ‘one of the hardest qualifying sessions I can remember’ – means he will start the race on soft tyres, in contrast to Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), who start on medium tyres, in second and third on the grid respectively. Starting on soft tyres means Hamilton and his team will have to think hard about their pitstop strategy – and on top of that, the cars behind him are expected to have a perfect opportunity to slingshot past in the 800 metres of track before turn two.
If Hamilton and his Mercedes team do find a way to win, the Briton will draw level with Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix victories. So there is history to be made, as well as another victory as Hamilton hunts for his seventh drivers’ title. Let’s go!