This year’s Russian Grand Prix wasn’t the most exciting F1 race I’ve ever seen (dictated mainly by follow-the-leader track layout), however having a brand new winner is always great for the sport, especially if it’s someone called #Bottas and he’s also a hashtag trending on social media (#blessed #yo #teamLH). There was a personal touch about Valtteri’s win on top of that: I remember hanging out with the entire iberian mph dot com gang back in 2012 in dusty Jerez, with Peter Windsor interviewing the then Williams test driver in a hotel lobby, while we were all enjoing a mighty Jerezano ‘café con leche’.
Yes, iberian mph hermanos, the mumbling Finn had to win eventually, the first of many, as our dear old Ron used to say. I’m so excited because it inevitably sets the scene for Hamilton’s revenge – and there will be revenge at some point, I hope. I’m already missing Lewis vs Nico show, I never thought I’d tweet that. With the championship battle shaping up nicely between Ferrari and Mercedes (two different teams, thank you Lord!), fresh driver rivalry would be a total gift for the fans and organizers.
But first things first, Sochi brings back childhood memories for me: a quiet town by the Black Sea in the middle of Gorbachev’s perestroika, Russian Ladas parked all over the place (remember the 2108, the quintessential 1980s model?) and cheap food in the government-run restaurants by the beach. The Soviet riviera for comrades to restore their health and go back to producing the mothers and fathers of all bombs! Who would’ve thought we could one day hear Formula 1’s hi-tech hybrid tuk-tuks patiently following each other in formation around the latest addition to ‘Tilke-dromes’? A dream come true!
I’m certainly being harsh to my home Grand Prix with the story’s title, the grandstands were full (I expect they weren’t members of the military dressed as civilians or local bureaucrats who were given free tickets), the atmosphere was nice, as Kimi would put it. It surely worked as an F1 event on the ground, although I’m feeling sorry for TV viewers at home. Maybe there was something in the air on that particular weekend because far, far away in Uncle Sam’s land IndyCar spectators were equally treated to a disappointing show. These things happen I guess.
Sochi is a strange place to hold a Grand Prix: travel arrangements are custom-made for modern masochists with various flights along the way. Yes, the Sochi track is quite picturesque and all, yet Moscow or St Petersburg street race would’ve been much more original and user-friendly. It’s only a suggestion, Vladimir…
Back to what matters now.
The Russian GP hasn’t been kind to its native sons, Kvyat and Sirotkin (Renault’s Petrov clone): Sochi 2016 got DK demoted to the Scuderia Blue Meanie (aka Toro Rosso), with Sirotkin suffering incredibly bad luck in Friday practice and stopping after a couple of slow laps. In addition, DK had a weekend to forget in 2017, finishing outside the points (is it the Piquet curse?).
In any case, the race result was decided at the start, with Bottas leapfrogging the two Italian stallions from Maranello: it was a great shame for twitterless #Seb5 and #Kimi7. Maybe Ferrari PUs aren’t burning their oil as effectively as Mercedes’ ‘zee best’ PU in ‘zee wöld’? I’m sure it’s all to do with engine mapping… #winkwink
Once Bottas established some kind of lead, he managed to hold on to it until the end. That was the story of the race, really. Vettel’s finger did make its trademark appearance towards the end of the Grand Prix, it wasn’t his usual finger this time, and it was aimed directly at the semi-retired veteran Massa for holding Seb up in his pursuit of Bottas. But let’s be honest, the Finn had the race in the bag by the end of the last lap, FM’s antics on the track had nothing to do with Vettel losing the win. I’m sure Ferrari will be working on their starts rather vigorously in Barcelona next time out.
First-lap nutcase Grosjean left poor Jo Palmer’s yellow teapot thunderstruck, this being by far one of the most exciting moments of the race. Both drivers blamed each other, as you’d expect. Palmer is the man under pressure to perform, since Hulk Hulkenberg has blown the chisel-jawed Englishman away.
Kimi made his Ferrari bosses happy by grabbing the final rostrum spot, while the Dutch madman, Max Verstappen, had a lonely race to P5 behind overheating (literally and figuratively) Lewis Hamilton, it was one of those bad weekends for Lewis where a musical masterpiece didn’t come together, his rhymes were poor. Expect #teamLH to strike back.
We’ve already mentioned Force India’s stunning run of form and the pink assault on P4 in the costructors’ standings continued in Sochi, courtesy of Perez and Ocon crossing the line in P6 and P7 respectively! Don Vijay is still pulling the strings from his cell, if he’s in a prison cell right now. Renault’s improved pace in race conditions saw Hulkenberg take 8th spot, kudos to the Anglo-French squad.
Despite losing out to Bottas, Vettel managed to extend his championship lead to 13 points over Hamilton and there’s only one point separating Ferrari from Mercedes in the battle for the constructors’ championship.
Things couldn’t possibly be better for Formula 1 fans in 2017: we have a proper championship on our hands after some time!
Special thanks to Medovaya hotel for providing free accommodation to iberianmph dot com crew in Sochi! We’ll be back!