5 things we learned from the Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to his sixth world title with victory in Sochi.

By Press Association Published: 30 September 2019 - 12.01pm
Features F1

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton edged ever closer to a sixth world championship after taking advantage of Ferrari’s meltdown to win in Russia.

The British driver is now 73 points clear in the standings with just 130 points remaining.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five things we learned from Sunday’s race.

Vettel left red-faced by Ferrari

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc
Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc hit the headlines in Sochi (Luca Bruno/AP)

Sebastian Vettel started the year as Ferrari’s number one driver. Now, he is battling to save his future with the team. Following Ferrari’s curious strategy deal struck on the eve of Sunday’s race, Vettel was effectively told that he stood no chance of winning, even if he beat Charles Leclerc to the opening corner. Vettel was subjected to at least three orders to move out of the way of Leclerc, 11 years and four championships his junior. And embarrassed further more when he was left out on old tyres to ensure Leclerc got the jump on him in the pits. Leclerc, 21, might be Ferrari’s emerging star, with two wins and six poles to his name this year, but their harsh treatment of Vettel, before, during and after Sunday’s race, makes it impossible to see how the four-time world champion can survive there.

Bumbling Binotto leaves more answers than questions

Mattia Binotto is Ferrari's team principal
Mattia Binotto is Ferrari’s team principal (David Davies/PA)

Ferrari got themselves into a needless pickle by attempting to orchestrate the result, and their behaviour following Sunday’s race bordered on the absurd, too. Team principal Mattia Binotto tried to justify the arrangement and their actions, but his explanation only left more questions than answers. Firstly, he refused to say that either driver broke the pact, despite appearing to pin the blame on Vettel. Then, he claimed that Ferrari’s decision to leave Vettel out on old rubber was to cover off Lewis Hamilton, rather than to ensure he would fall behind Leclerc. Thirdly, he made the curious claim that if Vettel had not broken down, Ferrari will have considered swapping their drivers around again. Surely an implausible suggestion, considering they spent the first half of Sunday’s race trying everything to get Vettel out of Leclerc’s way?

Ferrari should follow Mercedes lead

Ferrari could do with taking a leaf out of Mercedes’ book. Even during the turbulent Hamilton-Nico Rosberg years, Mercedes have fronted up to their mistakes, creating a transparency which ensures individuals are not subjected to a blame culture. It allows them to get on with the job in hand rather than the smoke and mirrors policy which appears to be holding Ferrari back.

McLaren join centurion club

Hats off to McLaren for breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time since 2014. Following years of turmoil, the British team have got their act together this season, and with new F1 boss Andreas Seidl at the helm, are heading in the right direction. German Seidl adopts a no-nonsense approach, and he has already made his mark on the future of the outfit by leading calls for them to ditch Renault and team up with Mercedes from 2021 – a deal which was announced on the eve of the race in Russia.

Snoozy Sochi

Sochi has staged the Russian Grand Prix for the last five years
Sochi has staged the Russian Grand Prix for the last five years (Luca Bruno/AP)

Before Sunday’s race, George Russell was told by his Williams engineers that only eight passes had been made in the five races staged at the Sochi Autodrom. That alarming statistic barely improved in the following 53 laps. Ferrari’s meltdown made up for the lack of action at a track which is not synonymous with creating a thrilling spectacle. Sochi has been the home of F1 in Russia for five years, but the sport may visit there just once more after it emerged that the fixture may be moved to St Petersburg. Hopefully that circuit will be more lively than the one at the Black Sea resort.