SOCHI (Russia) • Lewis Hamilton accused Formula One stewards of trying to stop him winning after being handed two time penalties in yesterday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The punishment, for infringements before the race had even started, cost the six-time world champion the lead and the chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix triumphs.
The Mercedes driver finished third after starting in pole position, with teammate Valtteri Bottas taking full advantage of the Briton’s troubled day to claim the ninth win of his career.
The Finn passed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take second place at the start and inherited the lead when the runaway series leader took an extended pit stop to serve two five-second penalties for irregular pre-race practice starts.
A disgruntled Hamilton rejoined in 11th place but fought back to finish third behind Verstappen. The charge gave entertainment to the 30,000 spectators, the first significant crowd at a sports event in the Covid-19 era.
“I’m pretty sure no one’s got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. “I didn’t put anyone in danger. I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned on it.”
The stewards also handed Hamilton two penalty points on his licence, leaving him two short of incurring a one-race ban triggered by 12 in a 12-month period. He will have to maintain a clean slate over the next four races until November’s Turkish Grand Prix.
Asked if that seemed excessive, he replied: “Of course it is. But it’s to be expected. They’re trying to stop me, aren’t they? But it’s OK. I just need to keep my head down and stay focused.”
Bottas’ second win in Russia and second this season reinvigorated his challenge for the drivers’ title and reduced Hamilton’s lead to 44 points. The Finn also collected a bonus point for fastest lap.
Bottas, who last won at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in July, said: “It’s been a while! I need to try and keep the momentum. I’ve managed to squeeze a few points over Lewis, but there’s still quite a few races to go so you never know. I’ll keep pushing. I won’t give up.”
The 31-year-old addressed his doubters in more basic terms over the team radio as he took the chequered flag. “Yes! A nice moment to thank my critics and to whom they may concern **** you,” he said.
Mercedes continued their record of winning every Russian Grand Prix since the first held on the streets around the 2014 Winter Olympics venue.
HARD DONE BY?
Of course it is. But it’s to be expected. They’re trying to stop me, aren’t they? But it’s OK. I just need to keep my head down and stay focused.
LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes’ world champion, on his two penalty points coming on top of the time penalties.
- RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
1hr 34min 00.364sec *fastest lap
2 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +7.729sec
3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +22.729
4 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point +30.558
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault +52.065
6 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari +1min 02.186sec
7 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault +1:08.006
8 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) AlphaTauri +1:08.740
9 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri +1:29.766
10 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull +1:37.860sec
13 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +1 lap
14 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo +1 lap\
1 Hamilton 205pts
2 Bottas 161 3 Verstappen 128
4 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 65
5 Albon 64
1 Mercedes 366pts
2 Red Bull 192
3 McLaren 106
4 Racing Point 104
5 Renault 99
While Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff was happy for Bottas, he described Hamilton’s penalty as “far-fetched” and insisted that the driver gained no advantage by doing the start where he did.
Verstappen, who was pleased to split the two Silver Arrows, was also sympathetic.
“I mean if you cause a crash it’s different, right? But I think the penalty Lewis got was already painful enough,” said the Dutchman. “I mean OK, maybe it was not correct where he stopped, but penalty points for that? I’m not sure that’s correct.”
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE