By Nicola Kenton
- Round 16 of the Formula 1 season rolls on to Russia and Sochi this weekend
- Lewis Hamilton claimed his seventh victory of the season at the Singapore Grand Prix
- The Brit has a sizeable 40-point lead over Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship
SOCHI, RUSSIA – Lewis Hamilton has racked up successive victories in Italy and Singapore, but can the Brit now make it three-in-a-row at the Russian Grand Prix?
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Hamilton aims for three-in-a-row
Mercedes out-performed what they expected at the Singapore Grand Prix. Traditionally it is not a circuit that suits the Silver Arrows but Lewis Hamilton’s astonishing performance in qualifying ensured that he could claim his seventh victory of the season.
The Brit has always been quick on a Saturday but Singapore saw Hamilton put the ‘hammer down’. Despite only just making it through the first qualifying session, the Brit put in a sizzling performance to set an all-time track record and place his car on pole position. Hamilton was half a second down on Vettel in final free practice but ended up 0.6 seconds ahead of the German in qualifying with Max Verstappen his closest rival.
The race was pretty simple in comparison with tyre management being a key part of the race. Hamilton remained in front from the start and pitted later than Vettel to ensure he remained in front of his rival. At one point the Brit encountered traffic and Verstappen was right on his tail but it wasn’t long before he had re-established a lead over the Dutchman.
Hamilton has a 40 point championship lead over Vettel and Sochi is a track where, since it returned to the calendar in 2014, Mercedes have won every edition. The Brit has not won in Russia since 2015 but will be hoping to claim his third victory on the streets of Sochi this weekend.
Strategy risks not paying off for Vettel
It was another disappointing weekend for Sebastian Vettel who fell further behind in the championship. Having been in front through the practice sessions, Ferrari were blown away by Hamilton’s pace in qualifying. There was nothing they could do to match it and had to settle for third and fifth. At the start of the race, Vettel managed to get ahead of Verstappen in turn seven. However, strategy came into play and Vettel pitted the earliest of the frontrunners.
With Verstappen and Hamilton able to stay out on track for longer, the undercut did not pay dividends for the German. Hamilton emerged well in front but Verstappen, who had a slower stop, came out alongside the Ferrari. The Dutchman had the inside line going into turn three and he managed to get ahead. From there on out it was a parade to the finish.
Speaking after the race, Vettel told BBC Sport:
“We went for it but the decisive bit was that the hyper-softs [on Hamilton’s car] were still in very good shape so my out lap I was pushing as hard as I could, but his lap at the same time was too strong and not falling into the cliff so when he pitted he came out ahead. I’m not feeling good in terms of losing extra points. We started third and finished third. We didn’t lose anything but we also didn’t gain anything.”
After the high of Singapore, Alonso may struggle in Sochi
Fernando Alonso had a very good weekend in his McLaren. The Spaniard, who is leaving Formula One at the end of the season, finished ‘best of the rest’ to claim seventh place and six points at the Singapore Grand Prix. Alonso was also the best-placed car not to be lapped.
Singapore is one of the tracks where McLaren are able to perform better because it is a street circuit. The former World Champion qualified in 11th position for the race and started Sunday on ultrasoft tyres. This meant that his tyres would last longer and when he did eventually pit, he was able to undercut those in front who had to start on the hypersofts.
Speaking after the race, Alonso told Formula One:
“I’m really, really happy with seventh. Normally [to finish so high] something happens in front of us, but today all six cars [from the top three teams] finished the race. P7 is a small win for us. We executed the race to perfection today – good strategy, good tyre selection, and good points.”
However, Sochi may be a different story for the former World Champion. The track does not suit the McLaren and the Spaniard may be in a battle for the final point, instead of being further up the grid.
The Russian Grand Prix takes place in Sochi this weekend, with the race on Sunday starting at 12.10pm BST.
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