The 2017 Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix was thrilling on the opening lap and in the final two of fifty-two laps. The rest? Ho hum. But the story looking back was all about the newest Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, who was able to hold off the threat of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and win his first F1 race.
Ferrari had been dominant in practice sessions and qualifying, with Vettel and Raikonnen starting the race in the one-two positions. But race day in Sochi was all about Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who earned his first F1 win after accumulating over 80 starts during his F1 career. Bottas grabbed first place on lap one after he accelerated past both Ferraris and left his uncharacteristically lackluster teammate, Lewis Hamilton, behind in a swirl of brake dust.
The Finnish driver came to the Mercedes team in a last minute move after 2016 Driver’s World Champion Nico Rosberg unexpectedly announced his retirement. Bottas joins a long history of winning F1 Finns, including Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakinnen, Heikki Kovalainen, and, of course, current F1 Ferrari driver Kimi Raikonnen.
Bottas was able to hold off the final charge of Ferrari’s pesky Sebastian Vettel on the final two laps while overtaking back markers. The usually recalcitrant Finn thanked the team and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, commented that it took him a long time to achieve his first victory. “Quite a while eh?!? 81 races.” His previous team, Williams, saw only Felipe Massa score points in what has become a mid-pack competition for the longtime F1 high caliber team.
In other headlines from the 2017 Formula 1 VTB Russian Grand Prix, the U.S. Haas suffered another DNF, this time from the car of Roman Grosjean, who made contact with Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, forcing both into retirement. Daniel Riccardo’s Red Bull reportedly had brakes problems that resulted in flames before the car was retired.
And Fernando Alonso’s beleaguered McLaren Honda suffered another DNF, with the two-time former F1 World Champion telling his crew to try their own suggested remedies for a lack of electrical charge on the formation lap, as he already had exhausted everything he could do. Alonso tried to grab an early flight to the U.S. to continue his prep for the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day Weekend. Alonso will drive for Andretti Autosport, which is owned by Michael Andretti. Like Alonso, Andretti has a link to McLaren, as he raced for that F1 team in 1993 alongside legend Ayrton Senna.
Bottas, a calm and popular driver in the paddock and among fans, received a glowing reception on his first win. Teammate Hamilton offered the Finn a bear hug, Vettel pounded his back, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his congratulations. With Bottas’ win, Mercedes holds onto the lead in the Formula 1 Constructor’s fight.
Bottas summed it winning his first F1 race. “Worth the wait!”