A VICTORY for Lewis Hamilton in the past Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix extended his championship lead to 50 points over Sebastian Vettel.
However, celebrations were muted for the reigning world champion after scoring what can only be described as a hollow victory.
After all, it was his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who snapped up pole on Saturday and had the race well in control on Sunday. Bottas, under instruction from the team, moved over and gifted the lead and the race win to Hamilton.
For decades a fiery debate has raged around team orders in Formula 1.
Some are vehemently opposed while others see it as part of a “team” sport.
The unmistakable truth was clear for all to see in the muted celebrations by Hamilton and the stone-faced Bottas on the podium.
From a clinical and emotionless perspective, it is understandable why Mercedes made the call. Hamilton now holds a 50-point lead over Vettel instead of 43, if he had finished second.
However, while they had a plausible reason for making the switch, it dilutes the accomplishment of winning a Grand Prix and damages the spectacle.
It was a clear case of putting “politics” ahead of talent by Mercedes.
Despite being able to match the pace of the two Mercs, Vettel never got close enough to make a real go of winning the race. After the only round of pitstops for the front runners, Vettel was briefly in front of Hamilton before being relegated to third once more.
The last few race weekends have revealed a peculiar downturn in form for Ferrari that is likely to leave more than a few at the team’s base in Maranello scratching their heads.
By no means did Ferrari have a dominant car when compared to Mercedes, but their relative lack of pace in comparison to their title rivals is worrying.
Elsewhere Kimi Raikkonen qualified and finished fourth after spending most of the race in fuel-saving mode.
The driver of the day undoubtedly belongs to Max Verstappen, who breathtakingly scythed his way through the field from 19th to eighth in a matter of six laps.
Ironically, he led the most laps of the Russian Grand Prix thanks to his elongated first stint.
Ultimately he managed fifth in what was not only a spectacular drive, but also a mature one.
Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth in the sister Red Bull as Charles Leclerc won the ‘best of the rest’ battle in seventh place for Sauber.
Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Ocon, and Sergio Perez completed the top 10.
Following the race, Hamilton termed the win in Russia as one that he is not “particularly proud of.”
Nevertheless, it takes him an ominous 50-points clear of Vettel in the driver’s championship standings heading into the Japanese Grand Prix in one week.