In a traditional column, two-time champion Mika Hakkinen summed up the results of the past Russian Grand Prix …
Mika Hakkinen: Valtteri Bottas won the Russian Grand Prix for the second time, and this is a well-deserved result. He was absolutely right in saying that winning is the best response to critics. It’s hard to win in Formula 1, but Valtteri now has nine Grand Prix wins.
Valtteri was very fast in Sochi – he likes this track. The Russian Grand Prix appeared on the calendar seven years ago, and during this time Bottas finished in the top four six times, five of them on the podium. This is impressive.
Qualifying third on Saturday, Valtteri started on Medium, which is better than Lewis’s Soft. Due to the long stretch before the second turn – the first real turn on the Sochi highway – it is better to qualify second or third, which makes it possible to take advantage of the slipstream and get ahead of the leader. For this, a good start was important for Valtteri – so he did, overtaking Max Verstappen and imposing the fight on his partner.
Max did not start in the best way – and Daniel Riccardo was ahead of him in Renault. The French team has shown excellent progress lately. Although Verstapen managed to counterattack, it’s nice to see Daniel attack like that – it was his style. Riccardo finished fifth, but his work at Renault is helping the team progress, preparing for Fernando Alonso’s return next year. He finished the race in the six for the fourth time in a row. I’m looking forward to his move to McLaren next year.
The wrong start practice, for which Lewis Hamilton received two five-second penalties, is a rare mistake, especially for the team and rider who are so sensitive about the rules.
It is difficult for a rider to remember all the rules, for this, briefings are needed before the start, at which engineers and management can repeat what is possible and what is not, especially if this or that rule applies to a specific track. Lewis asked his engineer if he could practice starting, but unfortunately he chose the wrong place for this.
These penalties added to the unusual situation in qualifying, when Lewis took pole position on Soft tires, not quite suitable for the race. Due to an error in the second session – going off the track – and the red flags after Sebastian Vettel’s accident, he had to drive a decisive attempt at Soft. He made several small mistakes that weekend, all of which prevented him from winning the race. I often came across this. It’s the little things that decide everything, which is why attention to detail is so important. It depends on them whether you win or lose.
I said back in July that in this short but busy season, the riders will attack more and make mistakes more often. In Mugello we saw a lot of incidents, on the first lap in Sochi there were also several accidents.
While Mercedes and Max Verstappen are fighting for the first positions, there are many interesting fights taking place in the middle of the peloton. McLaren, Racing Point and Renault share just seven points. They expect the racers to fight but finish the races. It is a little strange that Ferrari does not participate in this fight, but is in sixth place, behind Renault by 25 points.
The next Grand Prix will be held in Germany at the Nurburgring. With this track I have great memories of winning the Luxembourg Grand Prix in 1998. Valtteri will want to build on his success and win the race again, and Lewis will try to win the 91st victory and catch up with Michael Schumacher – on a track that my opponent really liked.
In his last season at Ferrari, Michael won the 2006 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, and there was a crowd of supporters who cheered for him. This time the race organizers are ready to host up to 20,000 spectators, they will be curious to see if Lewis can catch up with the record set by Michael 14 years ago. And Valtteri and Max will try to prevent him from doing so.