2017 Russian Grand Prix

Hamilton on Russia: ‘I was lacking the pace from Saturday’

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So rare are weekends when Lewis Hamilton is “off the boil” or just not on top of his game that when they do occur, they stand out.

Hamilton’s run of form saw him finish no worse than second in each of his last seven Grands Prix, dating to last year’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin. Additionally, he’d been on the front row each of the last nine races, the last six of 2016 and first three of 2017.

Statistically, his worst races of late were at Singapore, when he started and finished third, and then at Malaysia, where a sure win went away with his engine failure that was all-but the final coffin in his World Championship hopes despite the pole.

Since that point, Hamilton went four-for-four in wins and poles to end 2016, and kicked off this year with two more poles, a win in China and second on the grid and the flag in Bahrain. Bahrain was the first time new teammate Valtteri Bottas out-qualified him, and that was down to a sterling lap that netted the Finn his first career pole.

But in terms of being second to his teammate, Bottas had the edge all weekend on Hamilton, who qualified and finished fourth and lost the pace from Friday.

He explained what happened in a Q&A with Mercedes’ official website that posted today.

“The car was exactly the same in the race. Friday was a lot different. Then, going into Saturday and Sunday, the car was in the opposite direction,” Hamilton said.

“In general I was lacking the pace from Saturday onwards. I think I had the temperature issues from lap five onwards. From then it was a lot of turning down the settings.”

The engine overheating issue that occurred during the race also scuppered Hamilton’s pace. Hamilton said the team doesn’t know yet what caused the issue.

Hamilton added, “I was slow from yesterday onwards. As I said, I think I could have matched the times of the guys at the front. But whether or not we would have lasted as long with the setup that I had, I don’t know. With the backing off for the temperature I was losing a second at least.”

Hamilton re-iterated it was a speed issue and not a reliability one for why he was off pace.

“Right now we need to understand where the speed was this weekend – where I went wrong with the setup – and then come back for the next race,” he said. “I’m still second in the championship. That’s not the end of the world but, of course, I need to recover the pace I had previously.

“This weekend was not a reliability issue. It was pure pace based on the tires, temperatures and being comfortable in the car. There is no reason for me to think about reliability. I think we have had the strongest reliability so far.

“I don’t know right now (what happened) but we will do some work to fully understand it. I have some ideas but there is some work to be done to figure it out.”

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, post-race (VIDEO)

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Valtteri Bottas is a winner in Formula 1 after both a decisive start and an excellent late-race defense against Sebastian Vettel in the 2017 Russian Grand Prix, scoring his first win in his 81st Grand Prix start and the first in just his fourth race with Mercedes AMG Petronas.

The Bottas victory is one of many story lines to emerge from the fourth Russian Grand Prix from the Sochi Autodrom, since the event’s premiere in 2014.

All the latest from this weekend’s race is recapped in the fourth and final weekend installment of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass, from Sochi.

Previous weekend installments are linked below:

Additionally, there were a bunch of post-race interviews during F1 Extra presented by Jaguar, broken out one-by-one. Those are linked here.

Sunday in Russia, Buxton caught up with Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Jolyon Palmer, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Those interviews and an overall wrap from Russia are in Paddock Pass:

Verstappen spends ‘lonely’ Russian GP watching lead battle on TV screens (VIDEO)

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Max Verstappen had so much free time during a “lonely” run to fifth in Sunday’s Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix that he was able to watch the lead battle between Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel on the TV screens around the Sochi Autodrom.

Verstappen qualified seventh on Saturday for Red Bull, but made a good start to run fifth early on where he remained throughout, finishing 24 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton in P4 and 26 seconds clear of Sergio Perez in sixth.

Without any real competition, Verstappen decided to keep an eye on the close battle for victory between Bottas and Vettel via the TV screens around the track.

“Very lonely. I just watched the screens and followed Bottas and Vettel,” Verstappen told NBCSN after the race.

“I had to bring the car home, but not much you can do. The race wasn’t too bad. I think you always learn a bit.

“It was a good fitness session. I lost some weight; have a nice meal tonight and look forward to the upgrades in Barcelona.”

Verstappen was the sole Red Bull driver to finish the race in Sochi after teammate Daniel Ricciardo suffered a brake failure early on, forcing him to retire.

Grosjean, Palmer clash early in Sochi; stewards take no action (VIDEO)

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Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer laid blame with one another in Sochi on Sunday after a clash on the opening lap of the Russian Grand Prix resigned both to their second Formula 1 retirement of the season.

Grosjean and Palmer tangled at Turn 2 as the field came through the bottleneck at the first braking zone on Lap 1, causing both to spin into the wall and out of the race.

The stewards looked into the incident and deemed it to have been a racing collision, with no driver fully to blame, but both believed they did no wrong.

“I was on inside of him under braking. I don’t know why he turned in,” Grosjean told NBCSN after the race.

“He tried to get as much on the apex. He just hit me, spun me, then hit me again. We hoped we could understand what was going on during the weekend to prepare for the next race.

“It was just ruined in the first corner.”

When asked where the blame lay, Palmer said: “Not with me. [The] Sauber and Romain were close. I couldn’t do anything more. I had to turn in. It was ambitious. I got sandwiched and he hit me.

“I think you just have to be sensible. It pitches at the apex. Every time you turn to the apex, I had a Sauber with no space, Romain on the inside. I had to turn otherwise the Sauber would have hit me. Then Romain did.”

The clash signaled the end of a disappointing weekend for both drivers, with Palmer and Grosjean also dropping out of Q1 on Saturday in qualifying.

While Grosjean remains 12th in the drivers’ championship with four points to his name, Palmer still is yet to reach the top 10 in 2017 for Renault.

Massa brushes off Vettel’s blocking complaint at end of Russian GP

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Felipe Massa brushed off Sebastian Vettel’s blocking complaint at the end of Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Russia, saying the Ferrari driver stood no chance of catching race winner Valtteri Bottas at the front of the pack.

Vettel closed up on Bottas in the final few laps of the race, getting a boost from DRS on the penultimate tour of the Sochi Autodrom as he ran less than a second behind.

Massa – Bottas’ former teammate at Williams – inadvertently gave the Finn a boost by also offering him DRS despite being a lap down, letting the Finn past into Turn 2.

Vettel was next up to try and lap Massa, expecting the Brazilian to lift through Turn 3, only for him to keep his foot in and make it difficult to overtake.

Vettel immediately complained over the radio to his Ferrari team, but it was to no avail as Bottas crossed the line 0.6 seconds clear to record his first grand prix victory. Massa finished the race ninth for Williams.

When asked about Vettel’s complaint after the race, Massa dismissed it, believing the German would not have caught Bottas anyway.

“To be honest, so many races he was not happy,” Massa told NBCSN.

“I left the right side for him. I slowed before corner four and he didn’t want to go.

“He wasn’t going to pass Valtteri in the last lap anyway, for sure.”

Massa was quick to congratulate Bottas after the race, the pair having spent three years together as teammates at Williams ahead of the latter’s move up to Mercedes for 2017.

“To be honest he deserves the win. He was a driver that showed he is at this level in the right way,” Massa said.

“People didn’t see the level he was [at Williams], but I said straight away he’d do a good job for Mercedes. He is.

“This is his track, and I’m so happy for him. He’ll get more than just the one he did today.”