One race on from scoring his first F1 pole position, Valtteri Bottas chalked up an even bigger milestone in Russia…
A super start and a brilliantly composed drive gave Valtteri Bottas his maiden F1 win in Sochi. The Finn is the 107th different winner in world championship history, and the first new victor since Max Verstappen won in Spain last year.
It took Bottas 81 races to finally taste victory, but that’s some way short of the longest wait for a first triumph. In fact, 10 drivers had to wait longer to win, including the man the Finn replaced at Mercedes, Nico Rosberg (who took 111 races to reach the top step of the podium) and countryman (and advisor) Mika Hakkinen (who took 96 races).
Only eight Finns have ever raced in F1, and Bottas is now the fifth to have won a race, following in the wheel tracks of Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen. With 47 wins, Finland is the fifth most successful nation in F1 history, behind Great Britain, Germany, Brazil and France.
It was the 12th time that Bottas has reached the podium in his career, and the second time he’s done so in Russia. His victory also kept Mercedes’ 100 percent winning record in Sochi intact, with the Silver Arrows now on four wins out of four in Russia.
Bottas is now just 10 points behind Hamilton and 23 points behind Vettel in the drivers’ standings – the closest three drivers have been after the first four races of the season since 2012.
In the constructors’ stakes, Bottas’s win helped Mercedes sneak back ahead of Ferrari, despite the Prancing Horse registering their first double podium finish since last year’s Spanish Grand Prix (that result coming a day after the Scuderia scored their first front-row lockout since France 2008).
It was the 90th podium of Sebastian Vettel’s career and his second in Sochi, and it not only extended his points lead at the top of the standings, it maintained his 100 percent podium hit rate to start the 2017 season.
Team mate Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile picked up his 85th career rostrum finish, ending a 15-race podium drought dating back to last year’s race in Austria.
It’s not the first time that two Finn’s have shared the podium, in fact it’s happened three times previously: in Japan in 2007 and in Malaysia and Hungary in 2008, with Raikkonen and Kovalainen sharing the rostrum each time.
Raikkonen also picked up the fastest lap of the race for the 45th time in his career, establishing a new lap record for Sochi in the process. It’s the second time this year Kimi has scored the fastest lap – only Michael Schumacher (with 77) can boast more.
Lewis Hamilton saw his eight-race podium streak snapped, as well as his record for always finishing on the podium in Sochi. Will he be back on the rostrum in Spain? Worth considering that the three-time world champion hasn’t been off the podium for two successive races since 2013…
Fifth place represented Max Verstappen’s best result in Sochi, but team mate Daniel Ricciardo’s early DNF means that Red Bull have only scored points with both cars in one of the four races this year.
By contrast, Force India maintained their impressive start to the season by once again getting both cars home in the top ten – a feat matched only by Ferrari and Mercedes in 2017. For the second time in six races (dating back to Brazil last year), the Silverstone-based team had both of their drivers in the top seven. As a team, they've now scored points in 16 consecutive races.
Sergio Perez was once again the first of the two Force India drivers to the flag, with the consistent Mexican extending his point-scoring streak to an impressive 14 races. That’s the joint-16th longest such run in history. Team mate Ocon meanwhile is on his own four-race run.
For the first time in three years, Nico Hulkenberg made it past Turn 2 in Sochi – and not only that, he finished eighth – his best result since joining Renault and his second successive points finish.
Hulkenberg was one of three drivers to benefit from Felipe Massa’s late pit stop for a slow puncture, which dropped the Brazilian to ninth when he was on course to finish sixth for the third time this year.
Massa’s team mate Lance Stroll reached the chequered flag for the first time in his career, but finished outside the points in 11th, sandwiched between the Toro Rossos.
Speaking of the Toro Rossos, Daniil Kvyat finished outside the top ten for the second year in a row at his home race, but Carlos Sainz fared better, picking up his first ever point in Sochi.
Fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso fared much worse, with his McLaren breaking down before the start of the race. That meant Alonso recorded a DNS (did not start) for the first time since the controversial United States Grand Prix in 2005. Where was that race held? Indianapolis, which is where Alonso will head after the next race in Spain…