The drivers and teams report back from an eventful race at the Formula 1 2018 VTB Russian Grand Prix...
What the teams said - Race day in Russia
A tale of two drivers. Bottas led from the start and seemed set for victory. But after Hamilton battled past Vettel having lost a place at the pit stops, the team opted to reverse their positions - the main reason being Verstappen ahead backing them into Vettel, and the risk of losing places to the German. But ultimately, this was about ensuring that Hamilton maximised his advantage over his rival in the title bid. Bottas missing out on the win was simply collateral damage today.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st
“Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and was a real gentleman to let me by. Obviously, he’s now not fighting for the Championship. Usually we’d be elated but I can understand how difficult it was for Valtteri. He did a fantastic job and deserved to win."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd
“A difficult day. A good result for us a team with maximum points. But personally a difficult race. We always go through all the scenarios and all the facts. Ultimately, Lewis is fighting for the Championship and the team for the Constructors."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"We are all racers at heart and what we want to see is out and out racing and may the quickest man win. But then we are a bunch of rational guys - we discuss things in the morning and then everything is different in the race. We should be over the moon with a 1-2 and fundamentally we are. But we also feel that it went against Valtteri - it would have been a race win for him and we changed it. It’s deflating for a driver and for a team. But there is a harsh reality that you can extend the lead by several points in a Championship that has been very tough and very difficult at times. Sometimes you have to take it and this is what we did today. Valtteri is a tremendous team player. Lewis was far back, we told him to switch position at T13 and he did it immediately. This is what you want to have within the team because you need to rely on these guys in the same way they rely on us."
Vettel put in some hot laps when it mattered to leapfrog Hamilton at their only pit stops, but the Scuderia didn’t have the pace today and despite battling hard, he had to watch Hamilton drive back past him out on track. From there third and fourth were the best Ferrari were going to get, and they don’t have much time to analyse their drop-off in pace before next week’s outing in Japan... where Vettel needs a big result.
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd
"Today the feeling with the car was very good and I was able to push, but I just wasn’t as fast as the others. Obviously, today it was better than yesterday in terms of pace, but it wasn’t enough to put pressure on our competitors. We tried everything and I am happy that we got a podium finish, but obviously this is not the result we were looking for. My start was good, but there wasn’t much track space for me and I could go nowhere. After pit stop we were able to overcome Lewis, but he could pull ahead more than us and at the end there was nothing to do. We lost some points during the two last races and it doesn’t help, but we have our plan to follow and hopefully we can make some progress in the races to come. Maybe the next couple of tracks are better suited for us, we will know when we get there. We need to keep pushing and try; who knows what will happen in the next races."
Kimi Raikkonen, 4th
"Not much happened in my race today, I was most of the time on my own. Unfortunately, this is what we kind of expected to happen. The feeling with the car was pretty good; with the first set of tyres we suffered a bit with the front left, but then on the softs the car was very nice to drive. Unfortunately yesterday in qualifying we were not fast enough and obviously today in the race it was very difficult to overtake."
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal
"Right from Friday, the Sochi weekend was rather a difficult one for us. Despite all our efforts to find the ideal set-up, neither on Saturday nor in the race were we competitive enough to worry our closest rivals. Compared to the way we performed at other circuits, something was missing here and so we were unable to reduce the points gap. On paper, the next race in Japan should have very similar characteristics to the one at Silverstone, so in Suzuka, we will get a more precise indication as to the potential of our car. If it goes well, we will know that, despite the difficult situation in terms of the classification, we still have the right weapons with which to fight all the way to the very end."
Ricciardo hit debris at the start, damaging his car and compromising his race. Nonetheless, a recovery drive to P6 wasn’t a shabby result. But that paled into insignificance when compared to his team mate – Verstappen made up six places on Lap 1, picked off the entire midfield and ran a long first stint which meant he led for much of the race and kept pace with the Mercedes to boot. His late stop dropped him to fifth, but nonetheless it was a stunning effort from the birthday boy.
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th
“The first lap was a bit of a mess and there are a few little things I will look back on and try to do better. Two cars were fighting at Turn 8 and as I went to pass them I was on the marbles, then off-track, which lost me positions. I then tried to take the slipstream of what I think was the McLaren but when I pulled out of the tow I hit some debris damaging my front wing. From then on, we had a bit of a limp and my race was pretty lonely. I think as a Team, fifth and sixth was probably the best we could achieve from the back of the grid today but obviously I would like to have been closer to fifth than seventh. Although we had better pace than expected this weekend I think we still made the right decision to take the penalties and on paper Suzuka, Austin and Mexico look better for us. I may have forgotten what champagne tastes like and I definitely want more before the season is out, so I will do what I can in Suzuka to get that.”
Max Verstappen, 5th
“To come from the back to finish fifth was a very good result today. I had a good start, a good first lap and from then onwards we could go through the traffic more easily than expected and also manage the tyres very well. It was a bit tricky at the start because Pierre stalled in front of me and I had to go around him. Then going into Turn 2 we were careful not to have any contact and after the first eight laps we were fifth and still in the pit stop window of Ferrari and Mercedes. After they pitted they couldn’t get past me. Unexpectedly, I was in the lead of the race and could keep them behind which shows that we really had very good pace, even on old tyres. Then once we stopped, we just had to bring it home. The tyre strategy was right because the Soft tyres were the only option we had in order to go as long as possible into the race. Today was better than expected, so I hope that the rest of the races this season will also be better than we expect. I enjoyed myself out there and this is a good result for my birthday.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A fantastic drive from Max today on his 21st birthday; it was a really mature performance and getting into the top six in the first seven laps was phenomenal to watch. Max then led the race for a large percentage of the Grand Prix but of course we had to make the mandatory pit stop, which we did with ten laps to go, putting him out of touch with the leaders. With the Ultrasoft tyres being quite fragile he was unable to take the fight to Ferrari in the closing stages, bringing his car home in fifth place. Daniel unfortunately incurred front wing damage on the first lap, losing him front downforce, which he had to manage throughout the first part of the race. He was still able to make his way into the top six and once he was clear of Leclerc the Team was able to do a fast nose change and get him back out on track in sixth position. Finishing fifth and sixth behind Ferrari and Mercedes was the optimum we could have achieved from the back of the grid today, but it has been very encouraging to see the strong pace of the RB14 all weekend.”
Ocon lost a place at the start which landed him slap bang in front of his team mate, just where Force India didn’t want him to be. Repeated radio messages from Perez about being slowed down didn’t help matters and eventually the team opted to reverse the positions. But the Mexican made no more headway and fairly gave the position back after a few laps of trying and failing to close down Magnussen.
Sergio Perez, 10th
“We tried everything as a team today: trying to push all the time and it’s a bit disappointing not to maximise the points we could have scored. We swapped positions [with Esteban] because we thought I could put more pressure on Magnussen, but I couldn’t get through. Our race wasn’t the most exciting and in the end we could only follow each other. Overtaking was very hard and maybe we lacked a couple of hundred meters of DRS to be able to make a move. We tried our best and we worked well as a team, but in the end P9 and P10 was all we could achieve today.”
Esteban Ocon, 9th
“Ninth place today is not too bad, but we hoped for more and I think we had the pace for more - certainly to be in front of the Haas. It’s a bit of a shame because the team swapped positions [with Sergio] to give us each a chance to attack Kevin [Magnussen] but it was very difficult to overtake, even with a longer DRS zone. Even at the start I lost out to Charles [Leclerc] because I was fighting with Kevin and ultimately it was one of those days when things didn’t really go in our favour. Considering what happened in the race it’s good to come away with both cars in the points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Both cars home safely in the points today, but we ended the day a little frustrated that we weren’t able to demonstrate the true pace of the car. We lost out to Leclerc on lap one and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way past Magnussen. Despite a pace advantage we couldn’t make a move stick and had to settle for ninth and tenth places. Both our cars were running line astern for almost the entire afternoon and we swapped the cars around to give each driver a chance to get ahead of the Haas. In the end we didn’t have enough advantage in the parts of the lap where it mattered to get ahead. We’ve added a few more points to our tally and shown good pace across the weekend so I think we can be just as competitive next weekend in Suzuka.”
A mixed bag for Sauber – Leclerc had a storming afternoon, overtaking Magnussen and keeping Ricciardo ahead honest in a race he described as “like a victory.” Ericsson struggled, bogged down in the midfield. With nothing to lose he gambled with a late change to a two-stop strategy, but to no avail.
Marcus Ericsson, 13th
“It was a frustrating race for me. The car and my driving felt good, but unfortunately I was stuck behind another car for the majority of the race and could not advance. I worked hard on trying to overtake, but it is a difficult track to do that. We tried to gain some pace by making a second pitstop and changing to ultrasoft tyres, but it didn’t work. I look forward to being back in the car next week at Suzuka, one of my favourite tracks, and having a new chance for a strong result there.”
Charles Leclerc, 7th
“I am very happy with the result today. It was a great race, with a strong strategy, and a car that felt very good to drive. The overtakes at the beginning of the race were on the limit but they helped us to finish the race in P7. To score such a result for the first time this season feels amazing, and is a good reward for all of the hard work we put in week after week. I am glad to have scored some more points and can’t wait for the next race in Japan.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It was a great event for us. We had good starting positions, and both drivers did a consistent job throughout the race. Charles showed some impressive overtakes in the opening laps of the race, and delivered when it was important. He was strong in managing his tyres and overall had a very strong race. Marcus gave a consistent performance, and had a good pace, especially at the start of the race. Unfortunately, he got stuck behind another car and could not move forward. It is a good sign for us as a team to have one of our cars finish in 7th place in a smooth race. We have to continue pushing and we will see what is possible in Japan.”
Magnussen held station at the start but was passed around the outside by a quick Leclerc. He couldn’t keep the Red Bulls behind either, but on pace, eighth was the best he could have hoped for. Grosjean likewise had a mistake-free race but once the quicker cars behind recovered, wasn’t able to make it back into the points.
Romain Grosjean, 11th
“I was very disappointed with that. I thought I drove a good race. I’d been struggling a bit for pace all weekend, but I felt in the race things got better. I was happy to keep Marcus (Ericsson) behind and then fight with the Renaults and overtake them. Then I realized I was only P11. I guess the Red Bulls started at the back, but after five laps they were already top-six. The Saubers were very fast, and the Force Indias were fast. We all just kept our positions. Unfortunately for me, two cars came by.”
Kevin Magnussen, 8th
“It was a tough race. We didn’t quite have enough pace – we were lacking a bit – so I found myself defending from the Force Indias, basically from lap one. I think we got all that we could. Leclerc was way too fast for us. He just overtook and pulled away easily. So, I think keeping the Force Indias behind was the maximum we could do. The pace we had yesterday in qualifying was better than the pace we had in the race today. I’m looking forward to Suzuka now. I think we’ll be strong there, and it’s also just a phenomenal track to drive. I think we’re all looking forward to that.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Again, we score points. We keep on adding to our account. Both drivers did a very good job today. We almost finished in the same positions where we started, counting out the two Red Bulls, who we knew would be coming through the field. With nobody going out ahead of us at the front, that’s the best we can finish, or almost the best. Leclerc did a great job, as well. Overall, it’s been a good weekend. We’re always thereabouts to score points, and we did today.”
Renault fancied points today, starting on the soft tyres in contrast to their main midfield rivals. But it was not to be – Hulkenberg fought well but lacked pace, and Sainz had a day to forget. Contact with Sirotkin early on and being forced wide by Magnussen provided two less-than-cherished memories to look back on. They finished outside the points, but fortunately their championship rivals didn’t capitalise...
Nico Hulkenberg, 12th
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the maximum from the strategy today. We had a clean race without any incidents and it was positive to be running in P7 for so many laps, but we weren’t able to make the places back after the pit stop. We gave it our best shot and converted the alternative strategy pretty well, but we couldn’t make it pay off in the end.”
Carlos Sainz, 17th
“I have mixed feelings after today. At the start I got away from the line really well on the Soft tyre and was past a couple of cars with the Hypersoft tyres. However, I got hit by a Williams into turn two and, even though I didn’t feel much, the floor and side of the car was destroyed and that made it really difficult to drive. I stayed out on track to try and help the team with the strategy, holding back the other midfield cars as much as possible, but unfortunately today the points were out of reach. When I jumped out at the end of the race I could see how bad the damage was and it made sense why the car was almost undriveable. Time to prepare for Japan now.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal
“It was a disappointing race for us. It’s clear we made the correct decision in qualifying yesterday as it offered the best strategy for the Grand Prix today, racing in seventh place before our stop and clearly in contention for points. Unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalise on the full benefits. Carlos suffered from contact early in the race and the damage cost him a second per lap thereafter. Nico’s strategy looked to be working with a similar race pace to our direct competitors, but our race, and in particular the last stint, was compromised by excessive fuel management earlier in the race. Overall a weekend to put behind us; we knew we would struggle here and we gave it our best so we move on to Japan.”
A tough weekend for the team with both drivers off the pace and Alonso not even getting his customary good start. They went for early stops, switching to the soft compound but to no effect. Vandoorne at least had the parting shot of overtaking Sainz on his last lap, but 14th and 16th isn’t exactly much cause for celebration.
Fernando Alonso, 14th
“It was quite a long race for us today. We were the only one with two sets of Soft tyres so we stopped very early trying to undercut some people and push them to pit early too, and some did.
“But the yellow-banded tyre behaved with no issues throughout the whole race, so our strategy didn’t turn out as well as we might have hoped.
“In terms or pure performance, we couldn’t really do much. Unfortunately, today there weren’t any retirements or Safety Cars, so 14th was the position we deserved.
“No points for us today. Let’s look ahead to Japan – hopefully we can score some there…”
Stoffel Vandoorne, 16th
“This was more or less what we expected before the start of the race. There weren’t really any incidents, and there weren’t too many overtakes for us.
“I had a bit of fun at the beginning with both Williams drivers; then with Carlos at the end, whom I managed to overtake, but apart from that it was a very lonely race for me.
“I think we pitted later than was really optimal: I lost about 10 seconds on the track, and it was impossible to make that time back during the race.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
“We tried everything we could to maximise our finishing positions with both cars today. During the race, we pushed just in case the tyres started behaving in some unexpected way and we could look for an opportunity over the others.
“Unfortunately, our pace just wasn’t strong enough this weekend for us to bring home any points.
“Nonetheless, we’re still looking forward to next weekend. The guys in the garage have a lot of work to do to get everything ready for the Japanese Grand Prix, so I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their efforts. The whole team has done a great job operationally all weekend.
“Suzuka can’t come soon enough!”
Hartley came in very early, complaining of a long brake pedal. New tyres fitted, he returned to the track only to spin immediately. Gasly spun moments later, prompting the team to retire both cars with brake issues. Safety is paramount, but it was disappointing nonetheless.
Pierre Gasly, DNF
“Since the start of the race I had a really strange feeling with the brake pedal, it went pretty long and got worse very quickly. Then, on the third lap at Turn 4, I braked and the pedal went completely flat, so we lost all the front brakes and had to retire the car. We need to have a look at the data to see exactly what happened, but it’s just a shame to see both cars retire so early in the race.”
Brendon Hartley, DNF
“I had a good start and passed Pierre before Turn 5, I was attacking the McLaren when the brake pedal went long. I reported it on the radio and then made our planned pit stop. We were going to try and be a bit cheeky with the strategy and do almost a full race on the Softs, we had great tyre life and pace and think it would have worked. However, once I left the pits the pedal went completely to the floor, the rears locked and the car spun. The same happened across both cars at the same moment so I’m sure the team will quickly diagnose and sort it out for the next race. We are all excited for Suzuka with the upgrades and performance we saw on Friday.”
Franz Tost, Team Principal
“It was a frustrating Sunday for Toro Rosso as both cars had to retire. For whatever reason we ended up with very hot front brakes and one piston in the calipers got stuck. This caused the overheating of the brake fluid and a long pedal. Therefore, we called the drivers to come to the garage. Obviously, being in Parc Fermé conditions, we didn’t change anything from yesterday, so we need to investigate further what the reason is. The positive side of this weekend is Honda’s new upgraded engine which is a big improvement. Now we are focussing on preparing everything for Suzuka where we hopefully will have a much better race.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“After everyone at Toro Rosso and Honda worked so hard all weekend, it was very disappointing to have both cars retire with a technical problem after only a handful of laps. Now, we are all focussed on the Japanese Grand Prix, as we will be on track at Suzuka this Friday. We look forward to a better weekend in front of our home fans.”
Sirotkin dropped down the field after contact with Sainz, and from there on struggled with tyre wear to trail home an ignominious last at his home race. Stroll didn’t fare much better – he finished 15th, but never looked likely to climb through the field. Hopefully, Williams can find some pace before next weekend.
Sergey Sirotkin, 18th
"A very painful race. The most painful race of the year. I think we could have picked up some very good points from this race, in terms of where we’ve been and where the pace was. But from the start, every single bit went wrong for us. We’ve always been in the worst possible position on the track with the worst possible traffic situation. I think a few things we managed very well, but despite that the whole race has turned around against us and it was a very painful moment for me."
Lance Stroll, 15th
"It was pretty bad at the beginning. We had planned to go longer on the first stint but the tyres were really, really bad and we knew the soft tyre could go the whole race so we got on it as early as possible. It was a good race. I was hunting down Alonso but he was being smart fuel saving in the first sector and then pushing in the last sector. I just couldn't hold him being so close behind but never got the DRS on the main straight. It was close but I never managed to get the DRS to have a go."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"Overall, it was a really frustrating afternoon. We’re obviously not racing where we’d like to race. We had the pace to beat both McLaren’s, but we were caught out by the severe graining on our ultrasoft tyre. This happened to McLaren as well, but they reacted better to it than we did. Consequently, we were fighting one on one with McLarens all afternoon and were unable to overtake whilst in their wake. Otherwise, we would have been able to improve our finishing positions, most of all for Sergey, who wouldn’t have finished so far down in his home race. We got two cars home, and we will keep learning and keep moving forwards."
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“There were no real surprises during this race, with the top four drivers carrying out the strategy that we predicted to be theoretically quickest, but we saw a brilliant drive from Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who used an alternative strategy to move up into the top six from the back of the grid. Tyre degradation was very low, which allowed for some long stints on the soft. Generally speaking, the tyre performance on these fastest-ever Formula 1 cars was exactly in line with our expectations, with a new race lap record set at the very end by Valtteri Bottas on the soft.”