Lewis Hamilton sounded more like a spoilt child than a champion on the verge of history after the Russian Grand Prix.
He could have equalled Michael Schumacher’s all-time grand prix win record in Sochi but threw the chance away, firstly with a mistake in qualifying and then with a pair of illegal practice starts that cost him 10 seconds in pitlane penalties.
Hamilton was never going to finish off the podium and still finished third to continue his march towards another of Schumacher’s records, seven world titles, but could not contain his disappointment.
After ranting over the Mercedes-Benz team radio, he was asked after the race if the penalties were too harsh.
“Of course it is, and it is to be expected. They are trying to stop me,” Hamilton said.
Contrast that with Daniel Ricciardo, who was also hit with a penalty, five seconds for running wide on a turn, as he fought to fifth for Renault.
“I will just drive the car faster,” he told his team.
Sochi has been a good track for Valtteri Bottas and he picked up another win, inheriting the lead when Hamilton stopped and then running home well ahead of Max Verstappen for Red Bull, as the Black Arrows easily outpaced the pack on a high-speed circuit that suits their strengths.
There was predictable chaos on the opening lap, with Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz crashing into retirement – Stroll tipped into a spin and Sainz tearing the left-front corner off his Mercedes with an over-eager return after running wide – and the race produced some entertaining tussles between drivers using different-compound Pirelli tyres at different stages of the race.
Hamilton’s petulant behaviour, which could earn him an interview with the F1 Stewards, could not take the gloss of Bottas’ celebrations.
“What a feeling! It’s been a little while since my last win, but I knew there would be opportunities heading into the race and luckily things went my way this time,” he said.
“Once I was in clean air, the pace was really strong, and I was able to control everything without any real concerns.”
Despite the win he is still 44 points behind Hamilton in the championship and knows he faces a tough run to the end of the season.
“I need to keep this momentum up. There are quite a few races to go and you just never know, so I’ll keep pushing, I won’t give up and we’ll see how it turns out in the end.”
Sergio Perez did well to bring his Racing Point to fourth, as Sochi also suits the ‘pink Mercedes’, while Charles Leclerc pushed hard to give Ferrari some consolation from sixth.
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|4||Sergio Perez||Racing Point|
|10||Alex Albon||Red Bull|