After the start of the Russian Grand Prix saw Valtteri Bottas jump both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to find himself leading the race before the first lap was even completed, the following 51 laps seemed to simmer off into a boring drive through the buildings of Sochi’s Olympic Park.
In the end, the Finn did resist immense pressure of Quadruple World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who almost pulled off a blinding overcut strategy. Behind them, many exciting battles played out, but who came out a winner in Sochi? An , who were the losers in a race that saw a superb midfield battle intensify?
Lewis Hamilton – 6/10
Lewis Hamilton’s gap to Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers World Championship has increased to 13 points after the Briton produced one of his worst performances in recent history. After a turbulent weekend through Friday’s practice and Saturday’s qualifying, Sunday didn’t improve as Hamilton’s race pace was considerably down on that of Valtteri Bottas. He never looked happy in the car this weekend which has led to a less than impressive rating.
Valtteri Bottas – 10/10
Russia has been a historically strong circuit for Valtteri Bottas, and he mastered the winding roads between the Sochi Olympic park during this race. A brilliant start and opening stint, where he managed to pull a gap of five seconds to Sebastian Vettel, were crucial in trumping a faster Ferrari in the second stint. Despite finding himself under truckloads of pressure in the closing stages, Bottas only had one small mistake on his way to a well-deserved maiden Grand Prix victory.
Sebastian Vettel – 10/10
It was another stunning performance from Sebastian Vettel in Russia as he almost snatched victory after a blinding strategy from Ferrari. Vettel’s 10/10 rating is mostly taken from his ability to use a set of 25+ lap old ultrasofts to set identical lap times to Valtteri Bottas on fresh supersofts. In the end, the plan nearly worked out, and perhaps without the extra formation lap, Vettel may have stolen away a victory in heartbreaking circumstances.
Kimi Raikkonen – 8/10
Kimi didn’t produce anything special in Russia. He quickly fell off the pace of Vettel ahead and Hamilton behind, who was struggling with temperature issues. He did, however, do extremely well to bring the car home just 11 seconds off the pace of Vettel. It was a much needed podium for Kimi, who was duly rewarded for keeping himself out of trouble.
Max Verstappen – 9/10
A boring race meant Verstappen was rather alone in P5. He would’ve been pleased to get one over Felipe Massa, who was heavily affected by a slow puncture. But, with no challenge from Massa, it meant Verstappen finished with the cars over 20 seconds ahead and behind him. After a water pressure scare hours before the race, Red Bull will be especially pleased just to get his car to the flag.
Daniel Ricciardo – No rating
Daniel Ricciardo’s race was ended on lap five by a rear brake failure. Because the issue happened directly after the safety car restart, it’s hard to give him a proper rating. Another retirement is not a promising sign for a seriously struggling Red Bull outfit.
Sergio Perez – 8/10
Like Verstappen, Sergio Perez had a quiet race. After an impressive P9 in qualifying, Perez avoided any problems to find himself, ‘best-of-the-rest’ behind Max Verstappen. “The race today was not especially exciting for me because I was always on my own in clean air,” commented Perez.
Esteban Ocon – 8/10
Ocon was much the much with Perez and simply followed his team mate home for a convincing and career-best, P7. “[T]he only negative from the race was a poor start,” Ocon commented, “but I managed to get those positions back before the first lap was over, so it was all good in the end.”
Felipe Massa – 7/10
Felipe Massa may have finished P9, but that doesn’t fully represent the Brazilian’s pace. After making his first stop on lap 21, Massa’s hand was forced to pit again after a slow puncture on lap 41. A one-stop is the fastest strategy around Sochi because of the low degradation and so the extra stop left Massa out of position in P9.
Lance Stroll – 4/10
Lance Stroll may have finished his first race, but it wasn’t an impressive performance. After he started P11, a spin at Turn 6 dropped Stroll down to an effective P15, just ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson. From this point onward, Stroll was engaged in a fightback, where he eventually recovered to what he described as a “disappointing” P11.
Carlos Sainz – 10/10
Out of all the first laps, Carlos Sainz’s was amongst the best. After a grid penalty from Bahrain forced him to start 14th, Sainz quickly found himself in P12 by the end of lap one. After Ricciardo’s retirement and a penalty for Magnussen, Sainz strode home, under pressure with a reported issue with the rear of the car, with the last points paying position.
Daniil Kvyat – 6/10
A home race didn’t bring any much needed luck Daniil Kvyat’s way as he suffered an uneventful race. After starting a promising P12, he was jumped by his team mate Sainz off the start and then later undercut by Lance Stroll. Kvyat explained after the race, “I was unfortunately blue-flagged quite a lot and lost some more time having to let the leading cars by.”
Stoffel Vandoorne – 7/10
Honestly, how can you give Vandoorne a rating? He finished the race in 14th, 27 seconds behind Kevin Magnussen and just two seconds ahead of Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber. The only real notable element from his race was a five second time penalty for failing to properly rejoin the track after running wide at Turn 2.
Fernando Alonso – No rating
It just gets worse and worse for McLaren-Honda in 2017. Fernando Alonso couldn’t even make it to the end of the formation lap during this race. That doesn’t mean he didn’t still make a big impact, however, as the extra formation lap caused by his stranded MCL32 forced one less lap in the race itself. Had there been that extra lap, Sebastian Vettel may have been able to get past eventual race winner, Valtteri Bottas.
Nico Hulkenberg – 7/10
Renault again failed to convert their superb qualifying results to a strong points scoring finish. Although he finished in P8, where he started, he had qualified above both Force India’s – but finished the race behind both of them. So, it’s still evident Renault have a problem with their race pace.
Jolyon Palmer – No rating
I’ve decided not to give Palmer (and Grosjean too) because, despite the court of public opinion, I don’t think either driver can be wholly blamed for the incident. It seems to me, this is just a simple racing incident.
Romain Grosjean – No rating
See Jolyon Palmer’s rating above.
Kevin Magnussen – 4/10
Wherever the FIA enforce track limits you generally won’t find controversy too far behind. Kevin Magnussen felt he was unfairly given a five second time penalty for running wide at Turn 2 and then failing to rejoin the track properly. I’m not here to comment on whether that punishment was correct or not, I’m here to say that it heavily compromised his race and cost Haas a decent shot at the points because he was running in 10th before he took the penalty. He finished 13th,
Marcus Ericsson – 7/10
Marcus Ericsson and Sauber basically only had to race his team mate today, and well, at least he did it successfully. Despite Wehrlein out-qualifying Ericsson on Saturday, the Swede fought back in the race to stick his car in P15 by the finish – a respectable two seconds off Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren-Honda.
Pascal Wehrlein – 5/10
Wehrlein struggled throughout the Russian Grand Prix with tire warm up issues which left him the last of the classified runners. He explained after the race, “During the race I wasn’t able to bring the tires into the optimal working window which resulted in our less competitive lap times.” Unlucky Pascal.
Final Note: These rankings have been the hardest for me to write purely because of the lack of on track overtaking we saw. Hope this Grand Prix was an eye-opener for the organizers.
Be sure to tell us in the comments whether or not you agree with our ratings!
By – Steven Walton