Former Formula 1 racer Jolyon Palmer commented on the results of the tenth stage of the season – Russian Grand Prix …
The past Russian Grand Prix will not go down in history as an example of a classic race. Lewis Hamilton’s penalties killed the intrigue in the fight for victory, and not so many events took place in the course of the distance in the entire peloton. At the same time, the race revealed a number of topical topics in Formula 1.
Hamilton punished again for breaking the rules
Hamilton can consider himself the main enemy of the stewards, because for the second time in three races he received a fine that cost him a possible victory. From the beginning of the season, his leadership in the championship seemed undeniable, but after the finish in Sochi, Lewis went to the press with a statement that the stewards were trying to stop him. However, the reality is that Hamilton and Mercedes just broke the rules twice.
In Monza, Mercedes and Hamilton held a pit stop in a situation where the entrance to the pit lane was closed. Antonio Giovinazzi and Alfa Romeo received the same punishment for the same pit stop. But none of Hamilton’s closest rivals made this mistake at Monza, and no one trained the start in Sochi in an unauthorized place.
The rules say that you can train the start right after the traffic lights at the exit from the pit lane. Mercedes appealed to the fact that this place is not marked on the asphalt in any way, but they know perfectly well that this place is spelled out in the rules, and no one else had any problems finding it in Sochi.
I really sympathize with Hamilton, because in both cases it is not at all obvious what exactly his actions led to the fine. It was the team that called him to the pit stop at Monza, and the team told him over the radio to train the start away from the exit from the pit lane. The problem was that Lewis drove much further than his racing engineer Peter Bonnington had anticipated.
Lewis is uncomfortable with losing two wins, and the fact that he received two penalties for starting training annoys him even more. Hamilton wanted to work out the start elsewhere, because the condition of the asphalt there is more similar to the condition of the asphalt on the starting field. There is a layer of used rubber in the place where everyone trains the start, so the grip of the wheels on the track is different from that which was then on the grill.
Of course, with such introductory statements it is impossible to perfectly prepare for the start, but the rules are rules, and only Hamilton acted differently from the rest of the riders. He did it twice, for which he received a fine. I don’t think the stewards have anything against Lewis. They simply applied the penalty that should be imposed for breaking a specific rule.
Boring races take place on a boring track
Sochi Autodrom meanders through the Olympic Park, which hosted the 2014 Winter Games. Combined with views of the Black Sea and mountains, this creates a pleasant atmosphere. But appearances can be deceiving. The reality is that the track has no character of its own. It’s flat and all 90-degree turns are the same. The only exception is the more complex chicane of turns 13-16, but they are also 90-degree. The track is definitely not a favorite among the riders.
This year the race in Sochi took place after Mugello, which made its debut in Formula 1. In the last column I called it an old school track. In this context, I would say that the track of the new school in Sochi is not breathtaking.
The Russian Grand Prix has already been held in Sochi seven times, and none of these races were memorable. It is difficult to overtake, there is nowhere to reveal the possibilities of cars, but at the same time there is a great risk of a safety car leaving. But unlike Mugello, the safety car in Sochi did not exacerbate the struggle on the highway.
The second turn in Sochi received increased attention due to the fact that it began to monitor compliance with the boundaries of the highway and to fine for incorrect return. George Russell described the turn as one of the worst of the season, and many share his opinion.
Carlos Sainz crashed into a wall, trying to get back on the track as quickly as possible. Daniel Riccardo and Alex Albon received 5-second penalties for not being able to correctly return to the track. Riders waste a lot of time turning left to get off the right track, even if they only skid a few millimeters outside the track.
After the finish, race director Michael Masi said there was room for improvement. The changes are likely to lead to more interesting races in the future, as this corner is located at the end of a long straight line and is conducive to overtaking.
In defense of this year’s race, we can say that if it were not for Hamilton’s penalty, we would have seen a more interesting fight, because the Mercedes pilots were on different tire strategies. However, now we will not know how everything could have gone.
Perez is making himself more and more vivid
Sergio Perez found himself in an unpleasant situation for himself, because next season his place in Racing Point will be taken by Sebastian Vettel, and he has to look for options for himself in 2021. However, these troubles do not prevent Sergio from showing good results, which only strengthen his reputation and attract the attention of the teams.
In the second race in a row, Sergio had to compete without new products, which again went to his team-mate Lance Stroll. Despite this, Perez achieved one of his best results in qualifying and in the race, ahead of Stroll. He was 22 seconds ahead of Riccardo, who finished fifth – almost so much time is needed for a pit stop.
Perez publicly fell out with the team, which decided to refuse his services at the end of the season, despite having a contract. He felt he was being mistreated by the team he had helped avoid bankruptcy a few years ago. Despite all this, Sergio continues to show good results. The fourth place demonstrates that he deserves a place in Formula 1 next year.
Vettel counts days until leaving Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel can’t wait until next season. Ferrari has a slow car this year, and the four-time world champion has never been comfortable in it. His team-mate Charles Leclair has had some spectacular races, and last Sunday finished sixth, starting eleventh.
Sebastian spent another weekend that he wants to forget. He crashed the car in qualifying trying to make up a 0.4 second gap from Leclair. In the race, he was unable to achieve success, having driven the long first segment.
Of course, Sebastian continues to try to make progress at Ferrari, but his relationship with the team deteriorated in the same way that Perez at Racing Point. After it became known about Vettel’s departure, friction continues between him and the team leader Mattia Binotto.
It seems that this season Vettel completely stopped trusting the strategists of Ferrari, and this is not the first time. During the race, he allows himself to discuss and even ignore the instructions of the team. But most importantly, he seems to have lost his usual attitude in the race, because of which the results were lost. From the outside it seems that Sebastian ends the season in “standby mode”. I’m sure the new challenge at Aston Martin will cheer up Vettel. He probably can’t wait for it.
Riccardo makes life difficult for Okon
Daniel Riccardo is having a brilliant season, and the race in Russia was another confirmation. Having received a five-second penalty, he admitted his mistake and told the team that he would go faster. He squeezes the most out of Renault and is unlucky that he was unable to climb the podium at Silverstone, Spa and Mugello.
Riccardo made it very difficult for Esteban Ocon to return to Formula 1, although it seemed that the young French driver’s star would shine brightly. Esteban was considered by many to be the main talent of his generation after he beat Max Verstappen in European Formula 3, and he looked impressive in Force India against the background of Sergio Perez.
However, Daniel Riccardo performs brilliantly at Renault, and if after the announcement of the Australian’s departure to McLaren, Ocon decided that it would be easier for him, then he was wrong. In 2021, Fernando Alonso will return to Riccardo’s place, and given his recent visit to the base and the desire to be aware of everything that happens in the team, he will be a difficult opponent for Ocon.
If, after returning, the level of Alonso will be close to that which he demonstrated before leaving the championship several years ago, then Okon will have to seriously add to keep up.
To assess the risks, Esteban only needs to look at the man who interviewed the top three on Sunday after the finish – Stoffel Vandorn. He was left without a place in Formula 1 after a tough season in 2018 on the same team with Alonso. Okon showed promising speed, but in 2020 he has not yet shown all his qualities.