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The Best of 2016 - Russia's chaotic start: Unseen onboard angles

21 Dec 2016

In the latest instalment of our end-of-year series picking out our favourite features, interviews and videos from the past 12 months, we go back to May and the 2016 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix. The first-lap fracas between Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat quite rightly hogged the headlines in the immediate aftermath of the Sochi race, but the action going on around them was no less frenetic. With the help of exclusive onboard footage, we ride with five drivers around the opening few corners - some of whom fare better than others…
Ricciardo takes a whack

Going three wide into a corner is often a recipe for disaster - and almost always for the driver in the middle, who in this case happened to be Daniel Ricciardo. The Red Bull man found himself the meat in a Ferrari and Force India sandwich as he was flanked by Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez going into Turn 2, but it was only when his out-of-shot team mate Daniil Kvyat tagged the back of Vettel's SF16-H that the Australian was sideswiped. That sent him into Perez's path, costing Ricciardo a front wing endplate (which would soon fly back over his head) and the Mexican a right-rear puncture. The question is: would Ricciardo, Perez and Vettel have made it around Turn 2 unscathed without Kvyat's intervention? From this angle it looks like contact was always quite likely...  

Alonso gets a flyer

Fernando Alonso has developed a reputation for making lightning getaways, and his start in Sochi was no exception. Far from watching for the five red lights to go out, the Spaniard seemed to anticipate when they would extinguish, so quick were his reactions compared to those around him. This slightly risky move paid off however – within metres he soon passed Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India, Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso and team mate Jenson Button’s identical McLaren. But Alonso wasn’t done yet. After cannily following Lewis Hamilton’s incident-avoiding line through the Turn 2 run-off area, the double world champion made the most of his superior momentum to overhaul Ricciardo and Perez’s ailing machines around Turn 3. His position at the end of lap 1? P7 – not bad from 14th on the grid…

Gutierrez 'does a Daniil'

Daniil Kvyat may have borne the brunt of bad feeling for the first lap chaos, but he wasn’t the only driver to get his braking for Turn 2 all wrong. Further back, Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez made an almost identical error, locking both front tyres before cannoning into the back of Hulkenberg’s helpless Force India. From Gutierrez’s view you can see just how close would-be Driver of the Day Kevin Magnussen comes to disaster as Hulkenberg’s car spins precariously close to the back of the yellow Renault. Ultimately though it was Manor's Rio Haryanto who would be the unwitting second victim of Gutierrez’s error - more on that below…

Haryanto takes flight

You can only imagine how Rio Haryanto must have felt as he saw, as we do in this video, the rear end of Hulkenberg’s VJM07 hurtling towards him as he approached Turn 2. To say the Indonesian had no time to react would be an understatement, and it was all he could do to hang on as his car – sandwiched between the Force India and Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber – was flicked up in the air. Thankfully the Manor landed safely on all four wheels, but with heavy damage sustained, Haryanto was forced to watch the rest of the race from the sidelines.   

Palmer takes avoiding action 

After a miserable race in China, the last thing Jolyon Palmer needed was to get involved in a first lap melee, and thanks to some deft driving he managed to avoid doing just that. Having started 18th, the British rookie was well placed to see the drama unfolding in front of him - indeed he found himself alongside Gutierrez as the Mexican tagged Hulkenberg. That sent the Force India sideways across the Renault’s bow, but with a quick flick of the wrists Palmer was able to steer clear of trouble. Exiting Turn 2, Palmer was right on team mate Magnussen’s tail, and he still would be at the end of the first lap - despite briefly passing the Dane, as well as several other cars, with some brilliantly decisive moves through Turns 3 and 4.