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Hamilton record bid on hold as Bottas claims Russian GP victory

Hamilton record bid on hold as Bottas claims Russian GP victory

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Hamilton record bid on hold as Bottas claims Russian GP victory

Hamilton record bid on hold as Bottas claims Russian GP victory

Lewis Hamilton will have to wait another two weeks to equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record for grand prix victories following a penalty-hit Russian Grand Prix won by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

From pole position, Hamilton was poised to score his 91st race win at the Sochi Autodrom, only to find himself under investigation pre-race by the stewards for two practice start violations outside of the designated zone.

The stewards decided each offence warranted a five-second time penalty, which Hamilton served after his first pit stop at the end of lap 16, dropping him from the race lead at that stage into 11th.

Despite fighting back, Hamilton had to settle for third by the chequered flag behind Bottas and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, leading to his championship lead being cut to 44 points over the Finn who also claimed a point for fastest lap.

Hamilton's next opportunity to match Schumacher's feat will be on the latter's home soil of Germany and the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nürburging.

At the start, Hamilton had done the hard work by retaining his lead heading into the first significant turn.

But as has become the way over the years at the Sochi Autodrom there was typical lap-one chaos, and for the fifth time in the last six seasons of the Russian GP, the safety car was required.

From the start, and from third on the grid, Bottas eased his way past Verstappen and then managed to slipstream Hamilton on the kilometre-long run into the first major corner.

He went too deep, however, into turn two, allowing Hamilton to sweep around the outside and reclaim the lead.

Verstappen was forced to cut across the run-off area and slide his way through the polystyrene bollards comprising a makeshift chicane.

Behind the Dutchman, McLaren's Carlos Sainz followed but as he exited he smacked into a wall with his left-front tyre, sending him spinning back onto the track, with team-mate Lando Norris and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel both taking avoiding action.

A few seconds later, as the race continued under a yellow flag in sector one, Charles Leclerc tagged the right-rear wheel of Racing Point's Lance Stroll at turn four.

That sent the Canadian into a spin, a wall, and his second consecutive retirement after sustaining a puncture at Mugello that sent him crashing out in the Tuscan Grand Prix.

That naturally led to the introduction of the safety car to clear the stricken McLaren and Racing Point, with Bernd Mayander remaining on track for four laps.

Hamilton then made a clean getaway, opening up a 0.7s gap to Bottas after the first full racing lap, shortly after which his two penalties were announced, leading to a response of "Bulls***!" from the 35-year-old when informed over the team radio by engineer Pete Bonnington.

Mercedes initially told Hamilton to box after 14 laps, only to be over-ruled by their driver, and with good reason, as he promptly posted the two quickest laps of the race before finally pitting for the hard tyre after 16 laps, and serving his penalty.

Just six laps later, though, Hamilton had made up six places and was running in fifth due to those who had been ahead making stops of their own, while he also passed Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton, though, was not letting go of his feelings that he had been brought in too early as on lap 23 he said: "You stopped me so early I have to manage now. I'll struggle to make it to the end."

When told Verstappen had done a "39.9", Hamilton replied: "I don't want any more info Bono. It doesn't make a difference."

From second and then the lead, Verstappen and Bottas both pitted to take on their hard tyres, retaining their positions, leaving Hamilton around 20 seconds adrift of his team-mate.

When first Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and then AlphaTauri's Daniil Kvyat pitted from each running in third, that promoted Hamilton onto the podium.

Ahead of him, Bottas and Verstappen quietly went about their work, with the former clinching the ninth win of his career, and second in Russia as his maiden F1 triumph was three years ago at this circuit.

Behind the leading trio, Racing Point's Sergio Perez claimed a solid fourth at the end of a turbulent weekend with his team as accusations have flown.

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo was fifth, despite serving his own five-second time penalty for not taking to the turn 2 escape route at one stage after being allowed to pass team-mate Esteban Ocon, with the Australian locking up.

Leclerc was a fine sixth for Ferrari, in stark contrast to Vettel who could only manage 14th, followed by Ocon, Kvyat, AlphaTauri team-mate Pierre Gasly, and Alex Albon in his Red Bull, who was also given a late five-second

On the occasion of his 322nd race start, equalling Rubens Barrichello's feat, Kimi Raikkonen finished 15th in his Alfa Romeo

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