Kurt Verlin
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Lewis Hamilton Wins 2019 Russian GP

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2019 Russian GP Hamilton Throws Trophy
Photo: FORMULA 1 | YouTube
2019 Russian GP Top 10 Results

As the Mercedes F1 team seems to have shifted its resources to developing its 2020 and 2021 cars, the 2019 Russian GP looked like it would produce another promising result for Ferrari, which had won the previous three races. On Saturday, Charles Leclerc was easily the fastest man on track, taking his fourth consecutive pole position.

But as has been the case so many times during the hybrid era, it all came apart for the Scuderia in the race. At first, things seemed good: Sebastian Vettel had a great start and passed both Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc for the lead. Though his teammate had grabbed pole, Vettel was clearly the faster man on Sunday, and he began to build a gap.

But Ferrari, apparently working off a pre-race agreement between the drivers, asked Vettel to let Leclerc back into the lead, to which the four-time champion responded: “Then tell him to close up.” Ferrari didn’t seem too happy with their driver disobeying team orders and thus orchestrated a pass via strategy by keeping Vettel out of the pits for longer than necessary.

To make matters worse, Vettel’s car then broke down, triggering a virtual safety car that allowed both Mercedes drivers to pit with much less time lost than usual, handing them the top two spots while Leclerc, who had pit under normal race conditions, was relegated to third. And despite his best efforts, he couldn’t pass either of the Silver Arrows in the remaining laps. Ferrari had effectively converted a 1-2 finish into a single third place.

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Further down the order, the Honda-powered teams had a reasonably good weekend. The manufacturer had brought its new Spec 4 power units, opting to take grid penalties in Sochi to ensure it would be in its best form for the next Grand Prix — its home race in Japan.

Both Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers therefore started much further down the grid than usual, but all made up good ground during race day, in particular Alexander Albon, who finished fifth behind teammate Max Verstappen despite starting dead last.

The midfield battle was as tight as ever, and as is often the case, Carlos Sainz Jr prevailed as the winner of what is known among the fans as “Formula 1.5,” the unofficial race between teams that aren’t Mercedes, Ferrari, or Red Bull.

Strangely, after George Russell crashed because of a brake failure, Williams had his teammate Robert Kubica retire his car to “preserve parts,” making one wonder just how dire the financial situation is at the team, and how much they have compromised Kubica for the sake of the rookie star driver.

The Japanese Grand Prix will take place on October 13 at the Suzuka Circuit, where Honda will look to put on a good show for its home crowd. Will Verstappen be able to take his third win of the season?

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2019 Russian GP Championship Standings