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The Best of 2015 - Onboard in the heat of battle at Sochi

21 Dec 2015

A Ferrari-Ferrari duel, Sainz and Ricciardo going toe to toe, and of course that clash between Bottas and Raikkonen - Sochi threw up some tremendous showdowns in October, and we had the onboard footage to prove it. A massive hit with fans at the time, the feature is also the eighth instalment in our 'Best of' series...

Some tracks aren’t renowned for producing wheel-to-wheel racing - but clearly Sochi doesn't have that problem. From Daniel Ricciardo’s side-by-side scrap with Carlos Sainz to Kimi Raikkonen’s ill-fated tussle with Valtteri Bottas, we bring you an exclusive driver's-eye view of the key battles from Russia...


The gloves come off at Ferrari

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Kimi Raikkonen was in the thick of the action from the moment the lights went out in Sochi - and he’d stay there until the very end of the race. At the start he jumped from fifth on the grid to third, but sadly for the Finn it wasn’t long before he was sliding back down the order. On lap 4 he was easily out-dragged by Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes-powered Williams on the run down to Turn 2, and then on lap 17 he found himself under attack from Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel at exactly the same point on the track. As you can see in the video above, the German (who we ride onboard with) got a much better jump as the race resumed following Romain Grosjean’s Turn 3 shunt, and despite Raikkonen’s valiant, spark-spewing defence, was able to force his way inside at Turn 2. With nowhere to go, Raikkonen took to the asphalt run-off and was able to retain his position through Turn 3, but the game was up and he knew it. “Do I have to let him pass or not?” Raikkonen asked forlornly over the radio, but before his engineer could respond he'd decided the answer was almost certainly going to be ‘yes’ and two corners later he reluctantly let Vettel slip past into P3. “I had no speed in a straight line at the re-start - he just drove past me!” Raikkonen lamented shortly afterwards - but there’d be bigger battles to come…
 

Sainz and Ricciardo go toe-to-toe

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One of the highlights of last season’s inaugural race in Russia was Jean-Eric Vergne’s remarkable around-the-outside pass of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at the daunting, multi-apex Turn 3 - and there were more fireworks at the long left-hander last weekend, this time involving Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Riding onboard with Ricciardo, you can see that he seemed to have snatched P10 from his rookie stable mate into Turn 2. But Sainz, clearly feeling no ill effects from his massive FP3 shunt a day earlier, was not prepared to yield the position without a fight, and as Ricciardo rounded Turn 3 - the same corner where only six laps earlier Romain Grosjean had speared into the barriers after losing control of his Lotus on the marbles - the Spaniard bravely nosed his STR10 inside his rival’s car before inching fully ahead approaching Turn 4. Retaining the inside line, the odds were still stacked in Ricciardo’s favour as he ducked back past Sainz through the right-hander, but still the Spaniard refused to lie down, running wheel-to-wheel with the RB11 all the way to Turn 5 before the Australian was eventually able to complete an epic four-corner pass.
 

Bottas and Raikkonen keep it clean

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Having lost track position to Valtteri Bottas early on in the race, Kimi Raikkonen had hoped to jump ahead of his fellow Finn in the pit stop sequence by stopping later than the Williams, which had been held up in traffic. But despite the slickest of stops from Ferrari, Bottas - himself in the midst of a scrap with Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull - was able to just sneak ahead of the 2007 world champion as he exited the pits on lap 32, setting the scene for a knife-edge battle that wouldn’t be decided until the very last lap. Arguably the highlight of the duo’s battle, other than the controversial crescendo, was this entertaining multi-corner ding dong on lap 36 which came about when Bottas lost momentum whilst trying to get past Ricciardo. In an instant, Raikkonen, who we ride onboard with, smelt blood and pounced, lunging his Ferrari down the inside at Turn 4, only for Bottas to retake his position on the exit. The Ferrari driver had another half-hearted stab at Turn 5, but, sensing imminent contact, afforded Bottas just enough room to cling on around the outside and retain fifth place. Next time, Raikkonen wouldn’t be so circumspect…
 

Fortune doesn’t always favour the brave…

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Having dispensed of Ricciardo on lap 45, Bottas, sniffing a podium, wasted no time in closing the gap to Sergio Perez’s third-placed Force India. But it wasn’t until the penultimate lap that the Finn managed to get a run on the struggling Mexican, using the DRS to full effect before diving up the inside under braking for Turn 13.  “Excellent,” Bottas’ engineer chimed optimistically over the radio, “we’ve got one more lap” - and it would prove to be the most dramatic in the young driver's career to date. No sooner had he got clear of Perez than Raikkonen also squeezed past the Force India, and approaching Turn 4 for the final time the Ferrari star fancied one last chance of prising third place away from his countryman. “I’d passed him once before in the same place,” Raikkonen would explain. “I don’t know if he didn’t expect it or if he didn’t see me, but once I decided to go [for it] there’s no way to back off…” With Bottas in the barriers and Raikkonen nursing a broken car, it was left to Perez, his tyres shot after a mammoth 40-lap stint, to cruise round and collect his first podium in over a year.