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Stat Wrap: Russian Grand Prix

The Mercedes AMG team celebrate Valtteri Bottas' maiden win in Formula 1 at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi

By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician

Cast your minds back to the summer of 2008.

The banks haven’t collapsed yet, Coldplay are proclaiming “Viva La Vida”, and Carol Vorderman is still on Countdown.

Meanwhile in Formula 1, Ferraris are locking out the front row, a Finnish driver is winning his first race and another Finn is also on the podium with regularity.

Fast forward nine years, and none of those things had reoccurred in Grand Prix racing until this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, which was one of the more unusual F1 meetings of recent times – and a memorable one if you’re Finnish.

Valtteri Bottas held his nerve in a late-race battle with Sebastian Vettel to become the fifth Finn to win an F1 race, after Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen.  A nation of only 5.5 million people, Finland has now won more Grands Prix (47) than motorsport powerhouses such as Italy (43) and Austria (41).

 Coincidentally, Raikkonen finished third in this race, just as he did when Kovalainen won his first and only Grand Prix in Hungary back in 2008.  This was the last time there were two Finns on the podium in the same race until Sunday – and Sochi was the first time the two Finns in question were not Kovalainen and Raikkonen.

Raikkonen had been the only Finn to win any races since then, taking Belgium 2009, Abu Dhabi 2012 and latterly Australia 2013.  Sochi was Raikkonen’s best weekend of the year, scoring his first podium finish since the Red Bull Ring last season, and coming within 0.059s of pipping teammate Sebastian Vettel to pole, giving the Sochi front row a very refreshing look.

As you undoubtedly have heard by now, Ferrari’s front row lockout in Russia was their first since Raikkonen and Felipe Massa did it at the final F1 race at Magny-Cours, also back in 2008.  Had Raikkonen been on pole rather than Vettel this weekend, it would have also set a new F1 record interval between consecutive poles.

  The Iceman has gone 127 races since that pole, so any further pole positions in his career will see him beat the 107-race interval belonging to Giancarlo Fisichella between Austria 1998 and Australia 2005.

Instead, the pole fell to Vettel, but it was still only Ferrari’s 6th pole in this entire decade.  In the same time frame Mercedes have scored 67!  Bottas’ victory foiled a run of nine consecutive wins for Vettel when starting from pole – as well as being the first time anyone has won in Sochi from below the front row.

Bottas had not previously finished higher than he had started in his Mercedes career, and he led more laps in this race (44) than in the rest of his career combined (20).  In contrast, teammate Lewis Hamilton failed to lead a lap for the first time since Japan last year, and he was unquestionably outclassed by his teammate this weekend, qualifying 0.478s slower and finishing 36 seconds behind in the race.

He may claim mechanical woes, but Hamilton was never at the races all weekend – this from a man who had finished first or second in the last seven consecutive races, and never finished lower than second in Russia.

If Hamilton’s weekend seemed poor, Red Bull’s was dire by their standards.  Max Verstappen was their top man on Sunday, but he was over a minute behind Bottas in fifth place.  Over a 52-lap race that equates at 1.15s slower on every lap!  Daniel Ricciardo never had a chance to get down the business, suffering a second mechanical retirement in four races, having finished every race last year.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon capped an improved weekend for Force India with their best results of the year in sixth and seventh.  Perez now has 14 consecutive points finishes and 34 consecutive race finishes, while Ocon has finished all 13 race starts in his career so far!

Force India alumnus Nico Hulkenberg was again impressive to qualify in the top-8 for the third consecutive race, and finishing eighth to claim his first ever points in Sochi.  It was certainly far better than the last two years, when he was punted out at the first corner on both occasions.

Williams came into this weekend boasting top-four finishes in every Russian Grand Prix, but despite impressive Friday pace Felipe Massa had to settle for ninth after a slow puncture late in the race forced him to pit. Meanwhile, at Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz did his usual quiet but consistent job to take the final point – tying Toro Rosso’s best-ever result in Sochi.

Special mention to Lance Stroll, who survived a first lap spin to finally net his first race finish, having only completed 52 race laps in the entire season prior to Sunday.  Additionally, Stoffel Vandoorne got a McLaren to see the chequered flag of a race for the first time since Australia.

Of course, that means Fernando Alonso’s nightmare continued in Russia, with the Spaniard’s car breaking down on the formation lap.  After several weeks in the headlines concerning his intentions to race at Indianapolis, there was a certain irony that the Spaniard suffered his first did-not-start in an F1 race since the 2005 US Grand Prix…. at Indianapolis!  The fourth anniversary of his last win will arrive at the next race, on home ground in Barcelona.

The Pirelli tyres produced incredibly low wear rates in this race, and there were just 20 pitstops in the entire race.  It was a landmark event for the Italian manufacturer as race winner Bottas gave them their 500th podium finish in F1.

Bottas’ win means that Romain Grosjean, who was out at the first corner of this race in a collision with Jolyon Palmer, now has the most podium finishes without a win among active drivers with 10, three short of Nick Heidfeld’s F1 record.

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