The 2020 Russian Grand Prix THRASHED expectations. We all thought that it would be a real bore. We thought there would be nothing other than Hamilton winning, and Bottas and Verstappen finishing on the podium. Thankfully for us, this was not the case. First, of all, we had two major accidents from cars on Lap 1, which together brought out the Safety Car, only 4 or 5 corners into this race. Second of all, for the 2nd time this season, Hamilton had a 10-second time penalty that sent him down the order. It wasn’t as significant this time; Hamilton only lost 2 places. However, the race was still exciting, seeing that Valterri Bottas FINALLY won another race this year. The 2020 Russian Grand Prix marked another fantastic race in 2020. And here at F1ntastic.com, we’re going to review it.
The 2020 Russian Grand Prix: A Race to Remember for Valterri Bottas
Valterri Bottas claimed his 2nd race win of 2020 after a long drought from wins for him. The last time Bottas won was the season opener in Austria back in July. This means that he hadn’t won a race for 8 races until Russia. The Russian GP is incredibly important for Bottas. He claimed his first victory in Formula 1 here in 2017. And now he’s finally proved many critics and many people wrong by winning again in 2020. This was his 9th win in F1, and Sochi is the only track where Bottas has won twice, other than Austria. He also won in 2017 and 2020 there.
There’s been people telling me that I should not bother, and I should give up but, how I am, I will never do that.Valterri Bottas
Bottas showed a lot of grit this race. His critics have criticized him this year since he hadn’t got another race win. It seemed as if all hopes for another win disappeared. On the internet, and all over social media, people were really being harsh on him. People have told Bottas to just give up. When someone is under so much pressure and is facing so much frustration after such a tough season, it isn’t easy to pull off a win. Bottas absolutely nailed the start, just like he did in Mugello, and he got up into 2nd place. Then he kept his head down and after Hamilton served his penalty, Bottas cruised to take the win. I’ll look into Hamilton’s penalty later.
You could say that Bottas had it easy and that Hamilton’s penalty gave him the race. He was lucky, but that doesn’t mean that if Hamilton didn’t have a penalty, Bottas wouldn’t have won the race.
First, of all, let’s look at Lap 1. Bottas had passed Verstappen off the start. He was using that long main straight and all that slipstream he was getting from Hamilton to make a move into Turn 2. He went to the outside, but then, a problem struck. To make an overtake into a corner, you need to get your braking right. When Bottas was approaching the braking zone hornet hit his visor. This blocked his view, and he couldn’t see the braking zone. That’s why he ended up braking late, and he went too deep into the corner. He got onto the sausage kerb on the exit of Turn 2, which is the entry into the kink after Turn 2 that isn’t as a corner. That’s why he couldn’t overtake Hamilton on the first lap.
Bottas had a lot of pace for the entirety of this race. Verstappen was able to attack in the first stint, but that wasn’t significant, and Bottas did much better for the rest of the race. Bottas a 7-second gap had behind to Verstappen at the end of the race, proving that he was very fast. All in all, you could see how happy Bottas was when he won the race. He expressed how happy he was to win the 2020 Russian Grand Prix and to prove his critics wrong. You can listen to the radio message below.
Hamilton’s Major Penalties That Cost Him Win #91
Before we look at the crashes from this race, let’s take a look at Hamilton’s major penalties that demoted him to 3rd place. This incident was very interesting. It’s unusual for practice starts to cause penalties, but it makes sense why the stewards penalized Hamilton. Hamilton received 2 penalties; both of them were 5-second time penalties and were for two practice start infringements. Before the race starts, drivers have to drive their cars out from the pitlane and towards the grid. They then practice their race starts in the pitlane. They have to do it fairly early in the pitlane and doing them in the fast lane, when the drivers are rejoining the track, in unsafe and illegal. Hamilton did his practice starts well into the fast lane, which is why he received penalties.
“Practice starts may only be carried out on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights and, for the avoidance of doubt, this includes any time the pit exit is open for the race,” said the note from the FIA race stewards.
“For reasons of safety and sporting equity, cars may not stop in the fast lane at any time the pit exit is open without a justifiable reason (a practice start is not considered a justifiable reason).”
Hamilton came in for his first and only pitstop on Lap 16. He stood stationary in the pit box for 10 seconds. This was because he served both the penalties together. He pitted from the soft tires to the hards, and the rest of the race had nothing for him. The gap ahead to Verstappen was considerably large, and the gap behind was fairly large too. In the end, Hamilton finished EXACTLY 15 seconds behind Verstappen. And approximately 7 seconds behind, Sergio Perez finished in 4th place. Hamilton was furious about the penalties.
“I need to go back and see what the rules are, what exactly I did wrong,” said Hamilton. “I’m pretty sure no one has ever got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger, I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned over it. But it is what it is.”
Hamilton was asked if the penalties were excessive and he replied “Of course it is, and it is to be expected. They are trying to stop me.”
“I don’t necessarily think that it is for me – I think whenever a team is at the front obviously they’re under a lot of scrutiny,” he said. “Everything we have on our car is being checked, triple checked and triple checked, they’re changing rules such as the engine regulation, lots and lots of things to get in the way and make the race exciting I assume.
“I don’t know the rules in terms of if what happened today was anything to do with it. Naturally, that’s how it feels and naturally, it feels we’re fighting uphill, but it’s okay, it’s not like I haven’t faced adversity before. So we’ll just keep our heads down and keep fighting, keep trying to do a better job, be cleaner, squeaky clean as I said before.”
Hamilton also received two more penalty points on his Super License. He was 2 penalty points away from receiving 12 penalty points within 12 months. That would automatically be a one-race ban. However, the stewards retracted those penalty points after the race. They listened to radio messages between Hamilton and his race engineer Pete Bonnington. This revealed that Hamilton’s race engineer told him that he could conduct his practice start further down the pitlane. That is why the stewards retracted the penalty points. Hamilton is now 4 penalty points clear of the one-race ban, so he is safe.
“The Stewards received information from the team that the driver of car 44 had received a team instruction to perform the practice start in the incorrect place,” the stewards wrote in the statement.
“This was confirmed by the stewards having listened to the audio between the team and the driver.
“Based on this information the stewards replace document 47 with this decision and therefore remove the penalty points imposed.”
The FIA also replied to Hamilton saying they were trying to stop him. The FIA’s F1 Race Director Michael Masi said that “there was an infringement and it doesn’t matter if it was Lewis Hamilton or any one of the other 19 drivers, if a breach has occurred of the regulations they will consider it on its merits.”
Hamilton’s 3rd place finish in Russia allowed Bottas to close the championship points gap to 44 points. That is still a considerable gap, but if Bottas can continue his current form from Russia in the next few races, we could be on for a big championship fight.
The Lap 1 Crashes
Sainz’s Major Mistake
Carlos Sainz didn’t enjoy the 2020 Russian Grand Prix. That’s because, for him, it only lasted 2 corners. It was at the race start, and after starting in 6th place, Sainz got a bad start. Esteban Ocon overtook him, and then Gasly and Stroll were attacking the McLaren. Stroll was trying to overtake Sainz down the inside of Turn 2, so Sainz left him some space. However, Sainz left Stroll too much space, and since the track tightens out of Turn 2, Sainz ran wide.
He had to use the escape road, and cross the bollards on track before rejoining the track. However, he was going too fast, and he misjudged his speed and he couldn’t stop his car from hitting the exceptionally narrow wall. Sainz apologized to McLaren on the radio, and from the tone of his voice, you could tell that he was upset about the crash. I suggest you turn your volume up when listening to the radio message below. Sainz was really quiet when he was talking on the radio.
This crash was a very unique one. Even though Sainz admits he is a fault, because he is, there are other factors that contributed to this accident. The nature of the run-off area of the track and the nature of the barriers make it difficult for the driver, and Sainz was not happy about it.
“I didn’t have a very good start, the dirty side of the grid was terrible – we were all slow off the line. And then unfortunately at Turn 2, I had someone on the inside, I ran a bit wide, and by the time I decided to go around the bollard, I went around the bollard with a very narrow-angle and I misjudged my entry speed around the bollard and hit the wall pretty heavily. So a misjudgement by my side, a mistake, but I still think that corner shouldn’t exist. It’s not a nice corner to drive around and it generates these kinds of these situations.” said Carlos Sainz.
“I think that corner is not very well designed,” he said. “It’s forcing drivers to take very strange lines and very strange incidents like the five-second penalties that we are given if we don’t negotiate that chicane next to a wall. But it is what it is and I got it wrong today,” he added.
FIA Race Director also agreed that the configuration of Russia’s Turn 2 isn’t ideal.
“Turn 2 has been one of those that’s been a challenge in different ways each year,” he said. “You fix things in one way, and it has another impact in another. So we’re trying to find the best solution, and I think we’ve found a reasonable solution. Now is there room for improvement? Yes. There’s always room for improvement.”
Some observers have suggested replacing the tarmac run-off with a gravel trap, but Masi said that does not work at every track or every corner. “As I’ve said a number of times that there are different solutions for different circuits, different corners, taking everything into account. And gravel is not a solution everywhere,” he said.
“With regards to speeds in run-offs, one of the things that obviously we’ve tried to achieve and aim to achieve is primarily that the rejoin in such circumstances is effectively funnelled in a way that it’s as safe as possible. That’s the primary objective. The secondary is to slow cars down if possible within that area. However, the nature of Turn 2, because of literally the nature of the corner, it’s very hard to find a one-size-fits-all solution. So we’ll continue looking at it, and see what we can do.”
How This Crash Unravelled McLaren’s Race
The Russian Grand Prix was a major blow for McLaren. For the first time in 13 races, McLaren finished a Grand Prix with no points for the team. The last time this happened was at the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix when Sainz fell outside the points, and Norris retiring after a failed pitstop. After the 2020 Russian Grand Prix, McLaren took a major blow to their constructors’ championship fight; they are running in 3rd, behind Mercedes and Red Bull, which is absolutely amazing progress for them.
However, after the Russian GP, Racing Point is only 2 points behind in 4th, while Renault is a further 5 points away. Renault had a solid result at Russia. They finished a solid P5 and P7. Racing Point had a mixed result, with Sergio Perez showing his worth by finishing in P4. However, Lance Stroll crashed out on Lap 1. I’ll get into that layer.
Let’s now get into why McLaren failed to score at the 2020 Russian Grand Prix. We know already that Sainz crashed out on Lap 1, which means there were no points from his side. Sainz’s crash affected Lando Norris a lot. There was a lot of debris there all over the track, which came in Norris’s way and damaged his tires, so Norris came into the pits for a set of hard tires. This resulted in him coming out in the last place. Alex Albon only qualified in P10 and started the race in 15th due to a grid penalty for changing his gearbox.
The image above, which is below the subheading, shows Norris, Albon, and George Russel battling for position. Russel was at the bottom of the field anyway, which was why he was in the battle. Russell lost out in the end due to a sudden lack of pace in his Williams. Albon powered ahead with his Red Bull, leaving Norris to limp home in P15, marking a disappointing, point-less race for McLaren.
“The team – here at the track and back home – put in a lot of hard work, so it’s a tough one to take, especially with the great atmosphere in Sochi with fans finally back in the grandstands.
“It’s a very disappointing Sunday afternoon for us, coming away from Russia with zero points,” he continued. “Our race was pretty much over after two corners, with Carlos running into the barriers and then Lando having to take avoiding action, finishing up at the back of the field.
“We boxed Lando onto the hard tyres at the end of the first lap, trying to go to the end of the race, which was still a sensible choice given the long life of that compound. Lando gave it his all, but without another Safety Car to mix things up, there wasn’t really anything he could do.” – Andreas Seidl, McLaren Team Principal
Stroll And Lecler’s Controversial Lap 1 Tangle
This is the last section of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix Race Review. This was the other Lap 1 crash, and it involved Lance Stroll and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Leclerc and Stroll were fighting for 7th place coming into Turn 4 on the 1st lap of the race. Sergio Perez was in P6 after getting a bad start and getting overtaken by the Renaults, while the other Racing Point had an excellent start, and had made it to P7 from P12 on the grid. Leclerc had a good start as well, after getting to P8 from P10 on the grid. Leclerc was chasing Stroll down after Stroll got a bad exit out of Turn 2, and Leclerc got a better run through Turn 3. Into Turn 4, Leclerc had the inside line in the braking zone.
However, Leclerc went too far on the inside. This resulted in Leclerc taking the corner at a slower speed and at a more acute angle. Stroll managed to re-overtake Leclerc there, because Leclerc was slower in the corner. But because the angle for Leclerc was so acute, he went wider at the exit of Turn 3. But, Stroll was still there. That’s why Leclerc hit Stroll, and Stroll spun, hit the barrier, and was out of the race.
This was the 2nd race in a row that Stroll crashed out of the race. Before that, he bagged seven consecutive points finishes. Stroll thought that he could score some good points in Sochi, and with the pace he had, I think that was a valid hope. Stroll emerged from the car after the crash unscathed since it wasn’t a massive crash, but he was really angry at Leclerc.
“Very sloppy from his part and I gave him all the room,” he said. “I’m quite surprised that he didn’t get a penalty. I gave him plenty of room I did the whole corner on the outside and he just tagged my right rear. I gave him all the room I could and it was unlucky but he could have avoided it. He didn’t have to run so wide into me, so I think it’s kind of ridiculous that he didn’t get a penalty. A lot was possible,” he said. “We were seventh at that point, I had a great start, we were on a good tyre so it’s a real shame.”
The Race Stewards did not award any penalties to Charles Leclerc for the incident. I personally think it is a racing incident, except that Leclerc, could’ve been a bit more careful. Only a little bit more careful, and maybe he could have anticipated that his racing line would invade Stroll’s line. However, Stroll was unexpectedly ahead of Leclerc at the exit of Turn 4. I feel that Leclerc then thought that Stroll would pull away and that there would be no issues. However, otherwise happened. I personally think that the Race Stewards did the right thing by calling the crash a racing incident, however, Lance Stroll doesn’t.
This is the end of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix Race Review. I certainly enjoyed writing this review, and I hope you enjoyed reading this review of a race that thrashed fans’ expectations. Let me know in the comments below, do you think Bottas can win again in 2020 after he proved his capabilities in Russia? I certainly think so, and I’m incredibly excited for the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Stay safe, and stay on the lookout for new posts!