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Mercedes' mojo returns as future of F1 shines - What we learned at the Russian Grand Prix

Mercedes' mojo returns as future of F1 shines - What we learned at the Russian Grand Prix

F1 News

Mercedes' mojo returns as future of F1 shines - What we learned at the Russian Grand Prix

Mercedes' mojo returns as future of F1 shines - What we learned at the Russian Grand Prix

In a year full of thrilling F1 races, the Russian Grand Prix may have just topped the lot.

There was excitement throughout the race as overtakes were made, strategies were played out and tyres were shredded, culminating in a remarkable final five laps as rain fell on only part of the Sochi Autodrom.

Lando Norris' heartbreak at missing out on his maiden victory turned into Lewis Hamilton's elation at reaching 100 grand prix wins as the top 10 was flipped on its head in the closing stages.

After such a stunning race, let's dive into the five things we learned in Sochi.

Mercedes finds its mojo

A more important victory this season you will not find. There is no doubt Mercedes has its back against the wall in the championship battle with Red Bull despite holding the points advantage.

Given the way races have played out this year, many had pointed to the significance of the German manufacturer taking advantage of the Monza-Sochi swing as the last of its two 'dominant' circuits on the calendar.

Hamilton had failed to score after his collision with Max Verstappen in Italy and then made two mistakes during qualifying.

In what looked like a massive let-off for Red Bull, Mercedes returned to form in the strategy department to out-think McLaren and make the correct call to pit for intermediate tyres at the pivotal point of the race. It earned the victory.

It is fair to suggest, strategy has been iffy this season for Mercedes but if James Vowles et al have found their mojo again, the run-in to the end of the season could be even tighter.

Verstappen proves his class

Who said you can't overtake in F1? Verstappen was brilliant in his charge through the field on Sunday even before the rain chaos that unfolded.

In amongst the regulation moves he pulled off was a vital overtake on Bottas on lap seven to nullify what seemed like a strategic move by Mercedes to block the Dutchman's progress from his back-of-the-grid penalty for an engine change.

In a weekend that could have been hugely damaging for the Red Bull driver, a second place and just a two-point deficit in the standings to Hamilton will be seen as a positive.

Indeed, Christian Horner labelled the result as "like a victory". If there is still anyone watching who doubts Verstappen's credentials as an F1 champion-in-waiting, surely he has proven his worth now.

McLaren at the top to stay

Look past the heartbreak that saw Norris despairingly sliding off the race track on slicks to forfeit the lead with three laps to go and you will find a hugely positive weekend for McLaren in Russia.

There would have been plenty suggesting the Monza one-two was a fluke despite the team's immense pace all weekend in Italy. With pole position and what - for around 40 laps - was a commanding performance in the lead, the team's pace has been confirmed.

What has been impressive is not the ability to capitalise on opportunity, but the way the whole team has functioned. Strategy calls have been impeccable and despite the slick tyre decision costing Norris, it was fundamentally the correct call given the track conditions the previous tour.

Add Daniel Ricciardo's resurgence in the second half of the season so far and a tantalising future awaits the papaya outfit.

F1 penalties confuse once more

With engine penalties galore, there may as well have been a tombola to decide the grid order for Sunday.

Verstappen was last on the grid with an engine penalty plus three places for his part in the crash with Hamilton in Italy. But for who started ahead between Bottas, Leclerc and Latifi was anyone's game.

Theoretically, Latifi, for example, hadn't changed his complete PU so in previous years would have started ahead of Bottas, Leclerc and Verstappen. Yet Bottas started ahead of the Williams because he qualified better.

Antonio Giovinazzi started ahead of where he qualified despite picking up a gearbox penalty.

If you had the correct grid order before the FIA released the final version of the classification, give yourself a pat on the back.

In seriousness, this is the latest in a line of issues with the F1 rules and regulations that needs to be simplified for fans, especially with a push for new viewers joining the sport.

F1's future is bright

Norris has been stunning, Russell stellar and Sainz magnificent. Add to that the 'known' quantity of Leclerc and the veterans of the sport like Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo and others and the future of F1 looks incredible.

New regulations next season point to closer racing with a wider range of competitors able to challenge for race wins and championships.

Rarely do you get an influx of talent quite like the current crop of drivers. Such is the group of 20 on the grid, other sensational youngsters like Oscar Piastri, who is in charge of F2 this year, will not get a look in unless Alfa Romeo hands the last seat available on the 2022 grid to the Australian.

Without neglecting a stunning title fight this season, the future looks bright for the sport.

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