The European Leg of the 2021 F1 Season was over, and the teams headed north to Russia for the first "fly-away" event. The Sochi Autodrom, venue for the Russian GP, was the fourth-longest track on the F1 Calendar. Designed by the German architect Hermann Tilke, the circuit is close to the Olympic Park, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Leading up to the Grand Prix, Aston Martin announced an unchanged line-up of Vettel and Stroll for 2022. Haas F1 Team did likewise with Mazepin and Schumacher. Raikkonen had recovered from COVID-19 and was fit to race for Alfa Romeo.
Meanwhile, Honda revealed that Verstappen had used an upgraded version of the "Energy Store" since Belgium.
The FOM announced the inclusion of the Miami Grand Prix in the 2022 calendar.
Mercedes knew that Hamilton needed the maximum haul of points from the weekend to retake the lead in the Championship. His teammate Bottas had been the better driver in Russia, and the question remained whether he would adhere to team orders ( if the need arose ). Mercedes remained the only Constructor to have won every race in Russia. As for Verstappen, Red Bull opted for a new Power Unit on his car, which meant that he would start the race from the back of the grid.
Ferrari, like Red Bull, decided to give Leclerc a new ( and upgraded ) Power Unit. He would also start at the back of the back. Ferrari's arch-rivals McLaren had the chance of further cementing their hold on P3 in the Constructors.
Rains had lashed the city all week, and the weather threatened to play havoc on Saturday too.
How did the teams and drivers fare at the Russian GP? Time for a recap!
Bottas topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, two-tenths clear of Hamilton and Verstappen. Leclerc was P4 for Ferrari, followed by Vettel, Gasly and Sainz, who were more than a second off the pace. P8 was the best that Norris could manage in his McLaren, while Perez and Alonso completed the top 10.
Ocon was P11 in the other Alpine, followed by Stroll in P12. Ricciardo split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen in P14, while Tsunoda was P16 in the other Alpha Tauri. The Williams of Russell and Latifi were P17 and P18, followed by the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher.
With the weather threatening the schedule for Saturday, the drivers pushed to complete their Race and Qualifying simulations in FP2. A spin at turn 8 resulted in Giovinazzi hitting the barriers, which damaged the rear of his Alfa Romeo. The Italian tried to limp back to the pits until the team advised him to do otherwise. The session subsequently got Red Flagged. Leclerc, too, suffered a spin at turn eight but managed to avoid hitting the barriers. Verstappen, meanwhile, complained to Red Bull about the lack of straight-line speed. His title rival Hamilton had an incident in the pit lane as he failed to stop in the pit box and knocked over the front-jack man. Thankfully, the mechanic escaped unhurt.
Both Hamilton and Vettel took to the run-off area at turn 7, while Ricciardo's FP2 got compromised after McLaren discovered an issue with the Power Unit. Turn 2 claimed another victim in Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman went over the sausage kerbs near the end of FP2 and lost the front wing.
Bottas was the quickest driver again, less than four-hundredths clear off Hamilton. Gasly was P3 for Alpha Tauri, followed by Norris, Ocon and Verstappen. Sainz set the 7th quickest time, with Alonso, Vettel and Leclerc completing the top 10.
P11 was the best that Perez could manage in the other Red Bull, with Russell splitting the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P13. Stroll was P15 for Alpine, followed by Latifi, Ricciardo and Tsunoda. The Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher completed the back of the pack.
It was advantage-Mercedes going into Saturday, and the pace advantage to Red Bull on the two long straights was substantial. Bottas reigned supreme on Friday and was the favourite to come out on top in Qualifying too.
Rain pelted down on Saturday morning, flooding the support race paddock. As a result, both F2 and F3 races got postponed. Citing no improvement in the conditions, the FIA decided to cancel Free Practice 3. Michael Masi, the Race Director, believed that the rain would reduce in intensity and not hinder Qualifying.
As predicted, the rain ceased, and Qualifying got the green light from the FIA.
Williams announced that Latifi would start the race from the back of the grid after taking a new Power Unit.
The track was quite damp from the rains, which meant that this would be the first wet Qualifying in Sochi.
Barring Alonso ( who chose the wets ), everyone else exited the pits with intermediate tyres for the start of Q1. All drivers had fuel for multiple runs, and Alpine informed Ocon that there would be no more rain until the end of Q1. Verstappen, destined to start from the back of the grid, returned to the pits after one sighting lap. Giovinazzi lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo and got spun around. It was a narrow miss for Leclerc, who was following the Italian around the circuit.
Halfway through Q1, Hamilton, Bottas, Stroll, Gasly, Sainz & Norris were the top six. Giovinazzi, Alonso, Mazepin, Schumacher and Verstappen were facing elimination. Meanwhile, Alonso returned to the pits to switch to intermediates as lap times improved with increasing grip levels.
Perez suffered a spin at turn two while Stroll complained about getting impeded by Ricciardo. The incident got reported to the stewards, and McLaren got away with a formal warning for not informing Ricciardo.
Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Vettel, Norris and Gasly were the top 6 at the end of Q1. Raikkonen, Schumacher, Giovinazzi, Mazepin and Verstappen got eliminated.
Intermediates were the tyre of choice again for the start of Q2, and drivers had enough fuel for multiple runs. Bottas, Hamilton, Norris, Ocon, Gasly and Vettel were the top six at the end of the first runs. Alonso and Stroll, who were in the drop zone, improved to P4 and P5, respectively. Some drivers returned to the pits for another set of intermediates, but the Williams duo continued with used ones. Russell improved to set the 11th quickest time. The Briton had the opportunity of going even faster on his final run.
Hamilton, Bottas, Alonso, Norris, Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Russell and Sainz were through to Q3. Vettel, Gasly, Tsunoda, Latifi and Leclerc got knocked out. While Gasly was livid with the result, Vettel couldn't hide his frustration after missing out on Q3 by five hundredths of a second.
It was time to battle for pole position as Q3 got underway. The Alpine drivers, Russell and Sainz, were on used intermediates for their first runs of Q1. As the drivers headed onto the track, a dry line began to appear on the circuit. Russell asked Williams to get the dry tyres ready. Despite the appearance of a dry racing line, the drivers chose to set a representative lap time on their first attempts.
Hamilton was on top of the timesheets from Norris and Bottas with Alonso in P4. Russell was the first driver to switch to the soft tyres, with others following suit shortly after. The aim was to set two timed laps in the remaining minutes of Q3.
However, disaster struck Hamilton as he was entering the pits for the switch to dry tyres. The Briton lost control of his Mercedes and hit the wall, damaging the front wing. The mechanics had to remove the broken front wing and ready another with the identical spec. Bottas had also entered the pits by then and was waiting for his turn. Eventually, the mechanics had to push Hamilton out of the pit box to change Bottas' tyres and then return to service Hamilton's car. The resulting delay left the Mercedes duo with time for only one flying lap.
Meanwhile, on track, Sainz and Norris exchanged purple sectors. Norris was the quickest in sectors two and three and snatched Pole Position. Sainz set the 2nd fastest time, half a second adrift. Russell, on his third timed lap, went 3rd quickest! The focus now shifted to the Mercedes duo. While Bottas failed to improve, Hamilton suffered a spin tapping the barriers with the rear of his Mercedes. Nevertheless, the Briton's time on the intermediates got him P4 in Qualifying.
Row three got occupied by Ricciardo and Alonso, while Bottas and Stroll were on four. Perez and Ocon completed the top 10.
McLaren, Ferrari and Williams had qualified as the top three on the grid for the first time since the 2003 European GP.
Norris bagged his first pole position of F1. The Briton was a master of changeable conditions and made the most of the opportunity presented to him. As for teammate Ricciardo, P5 gave McLaren a great chance of outscoring rivals Ferrari in the battle for P3. However, Ferrari wasn't going down without a fight. Sainz, too, bagged a front row start and, despite being on the "dirty side", hoped to challenge for the lead. His teammate Leclerc had his work cut out from the back of the grid.
Mr Saturday ( Russell ) was another star performer on Saturday. The Briton bumped his Williams up to P3, which presented him with another points-finish on Sunday. Since his move to Mercedes got announced ( for 2022 ), Russell had out-qualified Hamilton twice in the past three races. Latifi faced a more challenging race with the engine penalty that put him at the back of the grid with Leclerc and Verstappen.
Hamilton and Mercedes blew a great chance of bagging the front row for the race. A rare mistake by Hamilton cost both him and Bottas a second attempt on the soft tyres. With Verstappen starting 20th and last, Hamilton needed to capitalize on both Saturday and Sunday. While Saturday was a humbling experience, the result on race day mattered. Having qualified in the top 6 for every Russian GP, Bottas was disappointed with P7. The Finn got denied a fight for pole position thanks to Hamilton's mistake in the pits. Nevertheless, he hoped to continue his run of success in Russia.
Alpine had a productive Qualifying with both its drivers in the top 10. Alonso, the more experienced of the two, made it into the top 6. Despite being the quicker one on Friday, Ocon could only manage P10. With both Alpha Tauris in the bottom half of the field, Alpine had a great chance of extending their lead over Alpha Tauri in the fight for P5.
Stroll and Vettel qualified P8 and P11, respectively, for Aston Martin. Although Vettel narrowly missed a Q3 appearance, he had the pace to break into the top 10. With the Mercedes engine and a strong race strategy, Aston Martin had the means of securing a double-points finish. The priority was to reduce the deficit to Alpha Tauri in the quest for P6 in the Championship.
It was another lacklustre performance by Perez for Red Bull. The Mexican could only manage P9, well off the pace of the Mercedes cars. His Qualifying struggles had no end in sight. With Verstappen having to charge through the field to break into the top 6, the likelihood of Red Bull outscoring Mercedes seemed bleak.
The Alpha Tauri drivers were the biggest disappointments from Qualifying. Gasly was livid after he believed he got impeded on one of his runs. The Frenchman had been more consistent of the two, but the lack of Honda power down the straights presented a challenge to finish in the top 10 on Sunday. As for Tsunoda, the rookie was out-qualified by his teammate again and needed to do better on race day.
Raikkonen and Giovinazzi managed P14 and P16, respectively. It wasn't smooth sailing for Giovinazzi, who suffered a spin in Qualifying, while Raikkonen complained about a lack of grip. The duo faced an uphill task of breaking into the top 10 with faster cars around them. Alfa Romeo was going backwards and needed to stem the tide. Schumacher split the Alfa Romeos in P15, while Mazepin qualified P17 for his home race. Haas F1 had been backmarkers in the earlier races, and anything else seemed unlikely.
After a compromised Qualifying that saw him finish in P7, Mercedes decided to change the Power Unit on Bottas' car, which dropped him back to P17. Experts believed it to be a tactical move by Mercedes to hamper Verstappen's progress through the race. Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo changed the gearbox on Giovinazzi's car, but even with the grid penalty, the Italian stayed P16.
C3, C4 and C5 were the dry tyres available for the race. The conditions were overcast, but the rain stayed away for the start of the race.
Alonso, Perez, Gasly, Bottas, Giovinazzi, Leclerc and Verstappen chose the hard tyres while the rest were on mediums.
McLaren informed Norris to stick to "Plan A" on the Formation Lap, while Verstappen reported Battery Drain issues. Thankfully, a change in the settings addressed the problem.
The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for everyone. Norris led the pack, but the drivers behind were lining up for a tow. Sainz got past Norris but locked up at turn two. Thankfully, the Spaniard made the corner and took the lead of the race! Alonso, however, had to use the run-off and go around the bollards before rejoining. Russell maintained P3 but Hamilton was the biggest loser as he got swamped at turn 2. The Briton was down to P7. Further down the field, Raikkonen was up to P10, Leclerc up to P12 and Mazepin P13. Bottas and Verstappen were more cautious in P15 and P18, respectively. Tsunoda, like Alonso, took to the run-off at turn two but hit the bollard and ended up P20.
While Stroll inherited P4, Ricciardo got past Alonso for P5. Verstappen began his charge up the field with an overtake on Schumacher for P17 on lap 2. Schumacher then got relegated to P19 by Giovinazzi. The battle for P6 was hotting up, and Hamilton got past Alonso on lap 2.
Perez was the quickest on lap 4. The Haas cars continued to lose positions, with Mazepin conceding positions to Bottas and Verstappen and Schumacher losing P19 to Tsunoda.
A DRS train was forming up behind Russell, who was running in P3. The Williams driver had the best straight-line speed, and Stroll, Ricciardo and Hamilton struggled to overtake him. Bottas was the quickest man on track ( lap 5 ) before Sainz took the honour away, a lap later.
Hamilton was now 10 seconds behind Sainz, his race getting compromised with each lap. Meanwhile, Verstappen closed up on Bottas and got past him. The Finn didn't fight for his position, although many expected more from him. Ferrari informed Sainz about extending Plan A by three more laps, while McLaren told Ricciardo about considering Plan B.
Giovinazzi pressured Latifi for P17, but the Canadian rebuffed the challenge. Verstappen relegated Gasly to P14 on lap 8. At the front, Norris had closed in on Sainz and was within DRS range.
The battle for P11 was hotting up, and Leclerc pressured Vettel on lap 10. Meanwhile, Verstappen had closed in on the pair and looked to capitalize with an overtake at turn 3. Leclerc shut the door on Verstappen aggressively, and it was a close shave for the latter with the wall. However, a couple of corners later, a mistake by Leclerc allowed Verstappen to claim P12. On lap 11, Norris challenged Sainz for the lead, but the latter held on. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi finally got past Latifi for P17 on lap 11.
Sainz, Norris, Russell, Stroll, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Ocon and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 12.
Stroll was the first driver to pit for hard tyres on lap 13. The Canadian rejoined in P15. Meanwhile, on the track, Norris took the lead of the race by overtaking Sainz. Further down the field, Giovinazzi got past Mazepin for P16.
Russell was the next driver to switch to the hard tyres on lap 14. The Briton rejoined in P14, ahead of Stroll, but Stroll overtook him, proving that the undercut was paying dividends. Meanwhile, Verstappen got past Vettel for P9, and then, the German lost another position to Leclerc on lap 14.
Sainz switched to the hard tyres on lap 15, rejoining in P13 ahead of Stroll. The Spaniard, however, lost time in the pits due to a problematic rear left tyre. Stroll was the fastest man on track on lap 15.
Ocon and Raikkonen pitted for hard tyres on lap 16, rejoining in P15 and P16, respectively. Verstappen had moved up to P6 and was only 8 seconds behind Hamilton. The Dutchman then set a series of fastest laps, going 1.3 seconds quicker than Hamilton on every attempt.
Norris, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly and Bottas were the top 10 at the end of lap 19.
Mercedes informed Bottas that a top 5 finish was possible, while Hamilton, stuck behind Ricciardo, asked the team to get ready to undercut the latter. At the back of the pack, Schumacher pitted for hard tyres on lap 21.
Ricciardo pitted for hard tyres on lap 23, but a slow stop wrecked his race. The Australian rejoined P14, behind Ocon. Replays showed that the "minimum reaction time" rule led to confusion in the pits. Ricciardo, however, wasted no time in getting past Ocon for P13. The McLaren driver then set the fastest lap of the race. Meanwhile, Raikkonen overtook Giovinazzi for P15.
Verstappen's charge through the field began to falter as the Dutchman complained to Red Bull about losing tyre performance. Hamilton, now in clear air after Ricciardo's stop, began to stretch his gap to Verstappen. Ferrari informed Sainz that they were looking at a P5 finish, much to the Spaniard's displeasure.
Norris, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly, Bottas and Sainz were the top 10 at the end of lap 26.
Hamilton pitted on lap 27, and Verstappen followed suit. While Hamilton switched to the hard tyres, Verstappen took the mediums, the duo rejoining in P9 and P12, respectively. Vettel also switched to the hard tyres on the same lap. Meanwhile, Sainz got past Bottas for P6, and Verstappen overtook Russell for P11.
At the front, Norris had been setting consistent lap times, and McLaren asked him about extending his first stint. The Briton got asked to push, suggesting that he was due to pit. Norris pitted on lap 29, switched to the hards and rejoined in P4. Bottas also pitted on the same lap and rejoined in 16th after switching to the mediums.
Verstappen was the quickest man on track on lap 29 as Vettel got past Giovinazzi for P14. Ferrari informed Sainz that his tyres were in optimal condition and he could push until the end of the race. However, the Spaniard lost P6 to Hamilton on lap 30, who then got past Gasly for P5 later. Hamilton was the quickest as Ricciardo got past Stroll for P8. Further down the field, Bottas relegated Giovinazzi to P16.
Stroll lost P9 to Verstappen on lap 32, while Schumacher got past teammate Mazepin for P19. It got revealed that Schumacher was nursing an issue on his Haas, which had become terminal. The German driver retired on lap 33. Hamilton was catching Norris and was within 5 seconds of the McLaren driver. Meanwhile, Gasly pitted for the mediums and rejoined in P16 ( lap 34 ).
Norris started to carve his way to the front with a move on Leclerc for P3 on lap 34. A lap later, Hamilton did the same, relegating Leclerc to P5. The Monegasque finally made his mandatory pit stop and switched to the mediums on lap 36. He rejoined in P13, just ahead of Bottas. Perez and Alonso followed suit a lap later, and Norris retook the lead of the race. It was a slow stop for Perez ( 8.9 seconds ) due to a problematic rear right tyre. The Mexican lost track position to Sainz and Ricciardo and rejoined just ahead of Verstappen.
Giovinazzi pitted for mediums on lap 37 and rejoined in P18. Hamilton was less than 2 seconds adrift and was honing in on Norris for the race lead. Alonso got past Verstappen for P6 as he was on fresher tyres. Meanwhile, Leclerc overtook Vettel for P12, and Ferrari informed him about rain hitting the track near the end of the race. Hamilton and Norris were exchanging the fastest laps as the latter tried to maintain his lead.
Leclerc continued his charge up the field with overtakes on Raikkonen and Ocon and moved into the points scoring positions. Perez challenged Ricciardo for P4, but the latter defended his position. Leclerc bagged P9 from Russell on lap 42, while Raikkonen sparred with Ocon for P11 but failed. As a result, he got compromised, and Vettel got past him on lap 44.
Russell reported spots of rain at turn 10 ( lap 44 ). Meanwhile, Perez finally got past Ricciardo for P4, Vettel overtook Ocon for P11, and Leclerc relegated Stroll to P9 ( lap 45 ). Mercedes informed Hamilton that the risk of rain was increasing.
Lap 46 saw a drizzle hitting the circuit, and the track started to get slippery. Sainz asked Ferrari to get the intermediate tyres ready, while Russell got pushed out of the points by Vettel.
Norris made a mistake at turn 5, which allowed Hamilton to close upon him. The McLaren driver opened up a gap again to Hamilton a few corners later. Meanwhile, Perez got past Sainz for P3, and in the battle for P9, Stroll cut across teammate Vettel. The Aston Martin duo banged wheels with Stroll's front wing clipping Vettel's rear tyre on the corner exit. Thankfully, both drivers continued without any damage. Further down the field, Raikkonen lost two places to Bottas and Gasly as the track conditions worsened.
Bottas, Russell, Raikkonen and Mazepin pitted for intermediates on lap 49 as DRS zones got disabled. Conditions were worsening steadily. Mercedes asked Hamilton to pit, but the latter refused. Verstappen, Sainz and Ricciardo also switched to the intermediates on lap 49 while Norris and Hamilton continued to defy team orders and continued on the slicks. Norris wanted to weather the conditions until the end. Meanwhile, Ricciardo got past Ocon for P10, and Alonso relegated Perez to P4 on lap 50.
Hamilton finally adhered to the team's requests and switched to the intermediates on lap 50, staying in P2. Norris again relayed his decision to stay on slicks despite being notified of Hamilton's pit stop. Further down the field, Stroll, who was on the dry tyres, suffered a spin, making contact with the barriers. The Canadian managed to rejoin the race. Meanwhile, Perez retook P3 from Alonso while Bottas got past Ocon for P11.
The drivers on intermediate tyres were now going seconds faster than those on the dry tyres. Mercedes informed Hamilton that if Norris chose against pitting for intermediates, then he would be in trouble. The rain was intensifying, and Norris went wide again. Hamilton gained 15 seconds in the first sector itself, and Norris couldn't bring his McLaren to a stop at turn five. Hamilton took the lead of the race! Norris made the wrong call and now had to tiptoe his way to the pits.
Further down the field, a host of overtakes was taking place by those on the intermediate tyres. Verstappen made it up to P3 and looked destined to inherit P2 with Norris pitting. Norris finally pitted on lap 52 for intermediates and rejoined in P7. However, it wasn't an easy entry into the pits. The Briton slid off on the pit entry and cut the white line twice. The incident got flagged for investigation, but thankfully, Norris got away with a reprimand. Meanwhile, Verstappen and Sainz were into podium positions, with Alonso and Perez pitting ahead of them. To add insult to injury, Raikkonen got past Norris for P7, but the Briton fought back to retake the position on the final lap.
Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Russian Grand Prix. It was his career's 100th victory, the first F1 driver to achieve such a feat. Verstappen took an unthinkable P2 after having started P20 and last. Sainz was P3 for Ferrari, followed by Ricciardo and Bottas. Alonso was P6 for Alpine, while P7 was the best that Norris could manage at the end. Raikkonen achieved his best finish of 2021 with P8 for Alfa Romeo, while Perez and Russell completed the top 10.
The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel finished just outside the points, followed by Gasly and Ocon. Leclerc was P15 in the other Ferrari, followed by Giovinazzi, Tsunoda and Mazepin, who completed the classified finishers.
Hamilton was relieved to win again, and more importantly, retook the lead in the Championship. He now led Verstappen by 2 points. Hamilton had his team to thank for the decision to switch to the intermediates at the opportune time. As for Bottas, it was a lacklustre display up until rain hit the circuit. The Finn powered through the field to finish a commendable P5. Mercedes outscored Red Bull and extended its lead to 33 points. They finally had built a buffer on their rivals, but they could have scored more had it not been for the drama in Qualifying.
Few would have bet on Verstappen to finish in the top 5, let alone a podium! The Dutchman was in damage limitation mode, and bagging the second-best result at a Mercedes dominated circuit made it a memorable Sunday. Although he relinquished the lead in the Championship, Verstappen trailed Hamilton by two points. It could have been much worse, but he had the weather to thank! As for Perez, the Mexican had a mercurial performance. A slow pit stop jeopardized his race, but he fought back with overtakes on track. He was on course for P3 before the rain hit the circuit. His decision to delay his switch to intermediates cost him several positions. Eventually, Perez finished in P9. Red Bull lost a chunk of points in what was a bitter-sweet day.
Sainz led the race but later fell out of podium contention. The Spaniard desired more and his efforts paid off with a perfectly timed stop under changeable weather conditions. It was an afternoon full of wheel-to-wheel battles for Leclerc, who muscled his way up to P9 up until the weather playing spoilsport. Like Norris, the Monegasque chose to stick to dry tyres, suffered a spin and ended the race, a disappointing P15. Ferrari's deficit to McLaren increased by four to 17.5 points in the Constructors'.
Norris, the winner elect, had everything going his way until the rain arrived. The McLaren driver had managed his race well and rebuffed the pressure from Hamilton with aplomb. However, his inexperience and incorrect decision making robbed him of victory in the end. Despite several messages from McLaren, Norris refused to pit and soldier on in ever-increasing slippery conditions. The Briton was so confident that he silenced his race engineer even after knowing that Hamilton had switched to intermediates like the majority behind them. Eventually, the track became too wet, and Norris fell backwards at a rapid rate. It was a hard pill to swallow, but Norris learnt an important lesson. The F1 world comforted the McLaren driver, reminding him that he too would become a Grand Prix winner one day. The team should have exercised more authority in their communications, with instructions to comply. The only consolation for Norris was that he got an extra point for the fastest lap and adjudged the "Driver of the Day". As for Ricciardo, confusion with the minimum reaction time cost him track position to his immediate rivals. The Australian charged back up the field, capitalizing with a well-timed stop at the end to finish P4. The 19 points haul allowed McLaren to open up a 17.5 points gap to Ferrari in the Constructors. It was a missed opportunity for McLaren to score back to back victories.
Alonso's racecraft and experience came to the fore for Alpine. The Double World Champion bagged P6 and 8 points for Alpine, which allowed the team to extend their lead over Alpha Tauri to 19 points in the battle for P5 in the Constructors. Ocon had a lacklustre day at the office, falling backwards and eventually finishing a lowly P14.
Raikkonen, the oldest racer on the grid, made the early call to switch to intermediates, and the move paid dividends as the Finn bagged his best finish of 2021 in P8. Before the drama of the final laps, Raikkonen made positions at the race start and was in contention for points finish. It was a stellar drive after missing two races due to COVID-19. The Finn proved that he still had the competitive edge at the twilight of his career. As for Giovinazzi, the Italian lost radio contact with the team on lap one. He also suffered some damage on the opening lap but continued to fight. Considering the challenges faced in changeable conditions, P16 was commendable. Raikkonen's P8 fetched Alfa Romeo 4 points, which reduced the deficit to Williams to 16. In the battle for P8 in the Constructors', Alfa Romeo had to keep chipping away and needed both drivers in the top 10 in the upcoming races.
George Russell, after his heroics in Qualifying, fell backwards in the race. The Briton finished P10, bringing home one point for Williams. Latifi's race ended with retirement on lap 48. Although Williams has a 16 point cushion to Alfa Romeo, they need to keep pushing till the end of the season.
It was a disappointing display by Aston Martin. Stroll and Vettel finished P11 and P12, but their coming together on lap 48 grabbed the attention of the media and fans. Lance Stroll was in contention for a points-finish until he ran out of grip. Meanwhile, Vettel was carving his way through the field but got caught out by the rain at the end. To add insult to injury, Stroll got ten seconds added to his race time and two penalty points on his license for hitting Gasly late in the race. It was yet another point-less weekend for Aston Martin. They now trailed Alpine by 43 points, P6 they only realistic target in the Constructors.
Gasly finished P13, while Tsunoda was P16 for Alpha Tauri. The team was going through a lean season and falling away from Alpine. Tsunoda's lacklustre displays remained a worry. As for Gasly, the Frenchman struggled throughout the weekend. The lack of Honda power down the straights cost the team dearly. They needed a response in Turkey.
Haas F1 remained backmarkers. While Schumacher retired on lap 33 due to a mechanical issue, Mazepin was P18 and last at his home race. It was best for Haas F1 to shift focus to 2022.
The final result at Russian GP proved that there was no substitute for experience. Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen made the correct strategic calls. The younger generation chose the more daring option, which backfired spectacularly. The biggest loser was Norris, the McLaren driver distraught after the race and trying to present a brave face. His day of supremacy would come, but it was just not today.
As for Hamilton, it took some time, but the century of wins had finally arrived! The Mercedes driver hadn't won a race since July, and the result brought his title challenge back on track.
With only two points separating the contenders for the crown, the Turkish GP promised to be another humdinger of a race.
However, today, it was time to celebrate Hamilton, the F1 Centurion!