Highs and Loews: Russia

Highs

Valterri Bottas
After his difficult time out in Bahrain this was the ideal response from Bottas, taking his maiden F1 victory to the delight of many. The terms ‘2nd driver’ and ‘Team orders’ were being bandied around after he failed to keep pace with Hamilton in Sakhir, but there will be no such utterances after Bottas showed the composure in winning required to be considered a contender in 2017. It was perhaps unfair to expect Bottas to jump in the Mercedes and be instantly competitive with Hamilton, but he’s now shown that his adjustment period is over, and he’s up for the challenge.

Sebastian Vettel
Having qualified 1st Vettel will undoubtedly be disappointed not to take victory on Sunday, but if he was going to lose to a Mercedes, he’d have been happier for it to be Bottas. The Finn may eventually emerge as a genuine title threat, but for now you feel Vettel will be glad to extend his lead in the championship over Hamilton to 13 points.

Kimi Raikkonen
Although you’re unlikely to get Kimi to show any signs of glee for his first podium of the season, this feels a marked improvement for Raikkonen. He still lost out to his teammate, but significantly closed the gap and unlike the first three race weekends, he threatened to take pole on Saturday, only losing out to Vettel by a small margin. Then in a race with little excitement or opportunities to pass, comfortably held on to third after Bottas won the drag race to the first corner. Now needs to push on and put consistent pressure on Vettel.

Sergio Perez
Best of the rest tends to be 7th, so it’s a bonus when one of the top 6 fails. Perez will be delighted that this week’s best of the rest earned him those 2 extra points, thanks largely to the usual occupant Felipe Massa also running into issues, which has helped the Mexican into 7th in the championship and level now with Ricciardo.

Esteban Ocon
A highest finish to date with a fine drive for 7th. Managed to stay within touching distance to Perez too, which will please the Frenchman, who will be hoping to put real pressure on his more successful teammate as the season progresses. Force India will also be extremely happy as they consolidate their 4th place in the championship, closer now to Red Bull in 3rd than Williams in 5th.

Nico Hulkenberg
Is seemingly achieving the maximum available to Renault, qualifying higher than all but the top 6 and Massa, then in a car struggling for race pace, hanging on in the points. His speed over one lap is proving to be vital in a season where overtaking is noticeably harder to come by.

Lance Stroll
It’s a charitable high, granted, but after the issues faced in the first 3 races, getting the chequered flag for a respectable 11th will be a huge bonus for the young Canadian. Still noticeably weaker than his teammate, and errors not completely ironed out, but this is at least a good platform with which to build on if he is to start achieving points finishes.

Loews

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton’s poorest showing for a long while, off the pace the entire weekend. Never looked like challenging the top 3 in qualifying, and in the race was the only driver from the top two teams not to look competitive. Struggled with overheating, but it’s hard to see how much difference that would have made once he got to the first corner in 4th, given the lack of overtaking opportunities at Sochi.

Pascal Wehrlein
Wehrlein was excellent in Bahrain, but unfortunately these are the standards he needs to keep to consistently. It may feel unfair, but Wehrlein wanted a Mercedes seat, so he will be judged far more harshly across the season than most, and finishing behind Marcus Ericsson does him no favours in that regard.

Jolyon Palmer
And so it continues, another disaster in qualifying as he lost control of his Renault in Q1 leaving it in the wall, and although the collision in the race was no real fault of his own, you wonder how long a Renault team that has points in it will continue to stomach such poor showings over a weekend.

Romain Grosjean
Qualified 20th and at fault for a collision on the first lap, like a Grosjean of old. It’s such inconsistencies that mean he is very unlikely to ever get a chance at a top team, despite his obvious pace.

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