Russian GP 2017: How Valtteri Bottas held off Sebastian Vettel for maiden win as Ferrari and Mercedes open up alarming gulf

Oliver Brown
Valtteri Bottas celebrates victory ahead of Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen - Getty Images Europe

Bottas is not Hamilton's understudy

While Valtteri Bottas’ one-year contract is hardly the greatest affirmation of his long-term potential, the Finn has shown definitively that he is not at Mercedes to be Lewis Hamilton’s understudy.

Having out-qualified the triple world champion in Bahrain and here in Sochi, Bottas finally seized his maiden victory in 81 races thanks to a superb piece of audacity. Surging past both Ferraris on the run to Turn One, he set a pace that even Sebastian Vettel could not hope to emulate. He celebrated with an apt piece of Scandinavian understatement over the in-car radio – “F--- me, taken a while, huh?”

Valtteri Bottas celebrates his maiden F1 win

Mercedes and Ferrari are a different class

Mercedes and Ferrari are opening up an alarming gulf on the rest of the field. Hidden amid the excitement of the Scuderia's blistering pace in qualifying was the fact that Red Bull, winners of four of the last seven constructors’ titles, were more than 1½ seconds back. Daniel Ricciardo, in particular, has lost much of his usual puppyish enthusiasm. The Australian had to retire early due to his brakes overheating, and the team now face a complex battle to restore competitiveness to the Renault engine before the European summer campaign begins.

Daniel Ricciardo had to retire early as his brakes were overheating Credit: Getty Images

No Stroll in the park for Lance

The credentials of Lance Stroll, the Canadian teenager who has secured his place in F1 through the billions of his fashion mogul father, are open to question. Having failed to finish the first three races, he found his chances in Russia severely limited when he spun on the first lap. Much more of this and he will find himself talked of in the same breath as Pastor Maldonado, his Venezuelan predecessor at Williams, who was so accident-prone he earned the nickname ‘Crashtor’.

Stroll has had a tough introduction to F1

Raikkonen loses his cool

The personality cult of Kimi Raikkonen, a driver so deadpan that he sounds almost disembodied, continues to grow. Despite his feat of starting second in an all-Ferrari front row, he was sufficiently oblivious to the narrative of the race that he forgot his on-track position. “Why are we behind Bottas?” he snapped at his race engineer, after his pit-stop. “Erm, he’s leading the race, Kimi,” came the reply.

Bernie still draws the crowd

While Formula One now rests firmly in the hands of its American owners at Liberty Media, the power of Bernard Charles Ecclestone endures undimmed. The 86-year-old might have been shunted into a meaningless executive broom cupboard, under the title of ‘chairman emeritus’, but he draws a crowd in the paddock more than his replacement, Chase Carey, ever could. He was also the first to greet Vladimir Putin, with a warm embrace, when the Russian President arrived at the Sochi Autodrom mid-race.

Bernie has a quiet word with Vladimir Putin

Move of the day

It was a manoeuvre that ultimately decided the race, as Bottas leapfrogged the two Ferraris off the start line in spectacular fashion, scything to the front after the first corner and never looking back.

A good weekend for.. Sergio Pérez

The Force India driver has cut a dissatisfied figure in Sochi, complaining that the car’s Mercedes engine had lost an edge to that of its pursuers, but he produced a drive of superb composure to finish sixth.

Bad weekend for...Fernando Alonso

Never mind struggling to finish races, the Spaniard could not even haul his wretched McLaren to the start line after an engine malfunction. His debut in next month’s Indianapolis 500 cannot come soon enough.

Alonso retreats to the pits after a problem with his car on the formation lap

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