Friday 18 October 2019

Russia triumph helps Hamilton tighten grip on Championship

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium. Photo: AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium. Photo: AP Photo/Luca Bruno

Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton took advantage of a Ferrari meltdown to win the Russian Grand Prix and tighten his grip on a sixth world championship.

In a calamitous few laps for Ferrari, the Italian team threw away a certain one-two finish after Sebastian Vettel broke down and Charles Leclerc dropped from first to third. Valtteri Bottas followed team-mate Hamilton home at the Sochi Autodrome as Mercedes secured the full quota of points.

Hamilton now leads Bottas in the championship by 73 points with just 130 remaining. Leclerc is 107 points behind the British driver.

Ferrari had already got themselves into a needless mess before Vettel retired with an engine failure on lap 28.

Seemingly it had been agreed that if Vettel benefited from the slipstream and moved ahead of Leclerc off the start line, he would have to concede the position.

Ferrari were on the radio to tell Vettel to let Leclerc by, but the four-time world champion resisted the order.

Leclerc protested from his cockpit. "You put me behind and I respected everything," he said. "We will talk later."

The Ferrari pit wall were on to Vettel again, but again the German did not want to budge, fearing that he would be exposed to Hamilton if he slowed down.

Leclerc was the first to stop on lap 22, but instead of calling in Vettel the next time around, as would be the expected protocol, Vettel was left on old tyres as his team-mate lit up the time sheets on new rubber.

Four laps after Leclerc pitted, Vettel was eventually stopped, and by the time he emerged he had fallen behind his team-mate and into a net second.

Ferrari had got their wish, but just moments after leaving the pits, Vettel broke down with an engine failure.

Irish Independent

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