Russian GP: Bottas wins first ever F1 race
After Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won two of the opening three races of the 2017 season, there seemed a genuine chance that could change Sunday.
But Valtteri Bottas had other ideas as he secured his first ever F1 Grand Prix win and maintained Mercedes dominance on Russia’s Black Sea coast.
The Finnish driver sped to victory after a flying start which saw him move from third on the grid to first, overtaking the Ferrari’s of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen which had been fastest in qualifying Saturday.
“Amazing. It took quite a while, more than 80 races,” Bottas said on the podium, referring to his first F1 win. “[It was] definitely worth the wait.”
Bottas has been operating firmly in the shadow of teammate Lewis Hamilton’s since replacing reigning F1 champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes in the off-season. But he was the star of the show Sunday.
A crash further back in the field between Romain Grosjean in the Haas and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer brought the safety car onto the track shortly after Bottas had taken the lead.
And when the race restarted, Bottas quickly set about extending his advantage on the open track ahead of him.
Although Vettel battled back to close the gap to 0.6 seconds towards the end, Bottas kept his nerve to take the checkered flag and the applause of the watching Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Raikkonen took third in the second Mercedes while Hamilton could only finish fourth.
“I obviously tried everything to catch Valtteri. I thought there would be an opportunity on the back straight,” said a disappointed but magnanimous Vettel afterwards. “It doesn’t matter, though. Big congratulations to Valtteri. It is his day.”
Another to offer Bottas his congratulations via the social media accounts of his Red Bull team was Max Verstappen.
The Dutch driver took fifth place after his teammate Daniel Ricciardo was forced to retire after just six laps.
There were no such frustrations for Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon which took sixth and seventh place respectively while Nico Hulkenberg of Renault finished eighth.
Felipe Massa in the Williams and Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso closed out the points positions.
Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso’s dismal start to the 2017 campaign continued as he was forced to retire before the race had even started.
Sunday’s result means Vettel extends his lead over Hamilton in the race for the drivers title to 13 points.
Bottas moves up to third in the drivers champions ahead of Raikkonen but still 10 points behind teammate Hamilton.