Double time penalty costs Hamilton as Bottas wins Russian GP from Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton will have to wait another race to equal the great Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix wins after successive 5 second time penalties before the race cost him dear.

Prior to forming up on the grid, Hamilton stopped in an unsafe place outside the pit lane to practice a race start and was handed two separate five second penalties.

It was a mistake that surely cost Hamilton the race win, the lost time meaning he came home 18.228 seconds behind race winner Valtteri Bottas and little over 11s behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Sergio Perez was an excellent fourth for Racing Point after his teammate was punted into retirement on the opening lap, the Mexican finishing ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon as Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon rounded out the points scoring finishers after many fantastic race long battles.

There was chaos at the start. Whilst great driving saw Hamilton maintain his lead past the perilous Turn 2, defending his lead from Bottas and Verstappen, Leclerc tipped Stoll into a spin and into the wall whilst Carlos Sainz clipped the wall whilst going wide through the escape bollards.

When the dust settled and the resultant Safety Car pulled off, Hamilton continued to lead from Bottas. But with Verstappen and Bottas the only two in the top ten starting on the medium tyre, they looked to be holding the trump cards.

It meant Hamilton had to put the hammer down in order to open up a gap before his tyres fell off around lap 12. Worse was to follow for the championship leader, being slapped with a 10 second time penalty for practicing a race start out of the pit lane.

With Bottas closing the gap, Hamilton made his stop on lap 16, his resultant penalty putting him back out in 11th place but ahead of the Renault of Ricciardo. Five laps later and three further places gained, taking Vettel on track and Ocon and Perez when the Renault and Racing Point pitted.

Hamilton’s next targets on track was the Ferrari if Leclerc and Alpha Tauri of Kvyat. But with those cars also to stop, the battle for the podium places was on.

With Verstappen in on lap 26 for the hard tyre and Bottas following a lap later, the race to the finish was on. But there was no catching Bottas on this day, although Verstappen tried his hardest and again split the Mercedes duo thanks to Hamilton’s penalty.

Bottas’ ninth F1 career victory means he narrows the gap to Hamilton to 44 points, and the Englishman’s latest penalties mean he must be now careful. He’s up to 10 super licence penalties, and two more would lead to a race ban.

“I need to go back and see what the rules are, what exactly I did wrong,” an understandably upset Hamilton told Sky Sports’ Natalie Pinkham afterward. “I’m pretty sure nobody has got two five second penalties for something so ridiculous before. I wouldn’t put anyone in danger, I’ve done this at a million circuits over the years and never been questioned on it, but it is what it is.”

When asked if he thought the penalties were excessive, Hamilton’s response was unequivocal.

“Of course it is. But it’s to be expected. They’re trying to stop me, aren’t they? Of course. But it’s okay, I just need to keep my head down, stay focused and we’ll see what happens.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.