2021 Russian GP: The Makings of History and Heartbreak

Emotions ran very high on Sunday, with the Russian GP being as exciting as it was. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting the race to be this fun, as the recent few years had shown us that a race at Sochi was less interesting than seeing paint dry on a wall!

Image credits: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.hamilton-takes-100th-f1-victory-after-late-rain-shower-denies-long-time.4pIst5Rju75ZKdmtcfIJpE.html

Obvious heartbreak was present for Lando, though we witnessed history with the first 100-time race winner in F1 history being crowned in the form of Sir Lewis. We might be bored of his dominance, but nonetheless we should consider ourselves lucky to be witnessing this remarkable driver’s career! Let’s get straight into the race rundown now.

The Events Of The Race

Qualifying results took us back to the early 2000s, with a McLaren-Ferrari-Williams 1-2-3! As amazing as it was to see, it was obvious right off the bat that it would not finish in that order. The race started, and immediately Sainz shot into the lead, passing Lando around the outside of Turn 2 after getting an amazing slingshot thanks to getting an amazing tow.

Alonso was absolutely rampant at the start, making the most out of a loophole in the rules and completely avoiding Turn 2, and instead going straight across the run-off area. He got away with it and rightfully so, and in doing so helped expose a blatant gap in the rules. Fernando may have been out of the sport for two years, but he is still the Fernando he always was! He battled with Daniel, though was passed by him soon as well.

Lewis struggled at the start, being overtaken by Alonso and then Ricciardo as well, though he re-took the place from Fernando on Lap 2. Further back, Leclerc made a lightning start, romping up to P13 from P20 in a jiffy. Max also made up a few places, but his progression was a bit slower. He overtook Valtteri with ease, in a bizarre moment! No real incidents occured hence, with cars just following one another. Max had one very scary moment, but thankfully came out of it without any damage.

In a few laps though, Lando caught up to and passed Carlos, who was struggling. The Ferrari was no match for the McLaren, and Lando shot into a distant lead. Carlos then pitted, and was one of the earliest to pit as well. The team had obvious concerns about his tyres, and rightfully so, as even after he came out on soft tyres, his gap to Lando didn’t come down, and instead stabilized, even going up at some times.

The pitstop phase took place, and Russell, who was somehow running a brilliant P3 in the Williams also stopped early, which unleashed the McLaren of Ricciardo and Lewis to show their real pace. Ricciardo pitted after a few laps, though had a slow stop. Lewis just kept going, pumping in the laps at a rapid pace.

Both Lewis and Max pitted on the same lap, but Lewis was legitimately flying. He passed Gasly and Sainz with ease, and set his sights on Lando. Perez, Alonso and Leclerc had decided to go long on their first set, and pitted very late into the race. Mick had the first retirement of his F1 career, though further ahead Lando and Lewis were closing in towards the trio of Perez, Alonso and Leclerc at a very rapid pace.

The trio eventually did pit, though Sergio’s slow stop put him behind Ricciardo. Lewis was hot on Lando’s tail, as we were on the cusp of witnessing history regardless of whoever of these two won. Would we see a career first win for Lando, or would we see a sky-shattering and record-making 100th win for Lewis? It seemed difficult for Lewis, given how fast the McLaren was pace-wise. It seemed like Lando would take the win without any issue, but there was one final hurdle that shook up the race- heavy rain!

On Lap 46, we saw shots of the crowds opening their umbrellas and ponchos, which meant only one thing-the rain was approaching! Lap 47 saw Lando and Lewis slide, and Lap 48 saw the conditions deteriorate further. On Lap 49, a crucial judgement call was made by both. Lewis pitted for inters after his team told him that the rain would increase, while Lando insisted on staying out and risking driving on dries in the wet, refusing a switch to inters when his team asked him to do so. The video below shows how it played out in real time, which you can also see by clicking this.

Do watch this- it gives an amazing insight into what actually happened!

Lap 50 came and went, and somehow Lando kept it on the island. The same couldn’t be said about Lap 51 though, as he slid off at Turn 4 handing the lead to Lewis, while having to himself limp back the entire lap on dries to the pits on a torrentially wet track. Opportunism favoured those who took the gamble to switch to inters, namely Max, Carlos and Valtteri, all of whom jumped up massively from where they were to finish in much higher positions than they usually would have!

Leclerc, Perez and Alonso had a good battle at the end, but messed up their strategy quite a bit, though it was Lando’s mess which was the biggest one. A potential win snatched away with just 3 laps to go, absolute heartbreak for the young Englishman. The other Englishman in Lewis made the perfect call tyre-wise, and secured the 100th win of his illustrious career, followed by a resurgent Max who finished P2 thanks to a clever tyre gamble, and Carlos in P3 who also benefitted from a well-timed stop for inters in the end, finishing P3 instead of the P5 he would’ve finished in.

Let’s now take a look at each driver’s individual race!

THE DRIVERS: WHO DID WHAT?

(P1)  Lewis Hamilton:

Lewis had a hard time right from the start, though he showed his true pace in free air and made the correct strategy call when it mattered the most. Overall, it was a stellar way for him to win his 100th race, showing true mettle and calibre! (9.5/10)

(P2) Max Verstappen:

Max had a bit of a challenging afternoon, after initial progress up the ranks stopped once he got stuck in traffic. A well-timed strategy call to inters was his saving grace, rocketing him up to P2. His last 5 laps were quite dramatic, and worth watching for sure! (9/10)

(P3) Carlos Sainz:

The Spainiard really out-drove his Ferrari, even temporarily being in the lead at the start phase, overtaken only by a much quicker Lando. After the pitstops it became clear that he would not have the pace to retain his net P2, but smooth strategy from the Smooth Operator helped him net a fantastic P3. (9/10)

(P4) Daniel Ricciardo:

Daniel had a good race, though lacked the pace at some stages of the race. He could’ve done better, though after the chaos of the final few laps, P4’s not bad! (8.5/10)

(P5) Valtteri Bottas:

The Finn was destined to a mediocre result until the rain hit, when being one of the earliest to stop helped propulse him well up the order, and bag some great points. (8.5/10)

(P6) Fernando Alonso:

Had he taken a slightly better strategy call, we would’ve seen Fernando on the coveted podium for the first time since 2014, however it wasn’t to be. A fantastic drive by the Spaniard only netted him P6 in the end, though he was capable of much more. (9/10)

(P7) Lando Norris:

The entire weekend was Lando’s up until Lap 51 out of 53, where it all slipped away from him. As gutted as I was to see him tumble down the order with a badly-timed strategy call, I know he’ll be back for more, and the first win is just around the corner, I’m sure! (9.5/10)

(P8) Kimi Raikkonen:

Returning to F1 after missing two races due to COVID? Bwoah, let’s score some points! Kimi’s strategy call at the end and driving was immaculate, and netted him some fantastic points after an underrated drive! (9/10)

(P9) Sergio Perez:

It could’ve been so much more for Sergio, but a bad call to stay out on slicks on a wet track failed, and the Mexican tumbled down the order to P9, losing many points in the process for both himself and Red Bull. (8.5/10)

(P10) George Russell:

Going from 3rd at the start to 10th at the finish seems like a disaster, but not when you’re driving the 2021 Wiliams! George had immense pace till his pitstop, when it became obvious that he wouldn’t be able to hold onto P3. He did, however make the right calls strategy-wise, and managed to jump up to P10- a stellar drive! (9/10)

(P11) Lance Stroll:

Lance actually had a decent first half of the race, but when the rain came down, so did his luck. A collision with Seb at Turn 10 made things difficult for himself and the team, and then contact and consequent collision with Gasly ruined all his chances. (7.5/10)

(P12) Sebastian Vettel:

Seb had an okay race, but was affected by the rain, and also when his teammate drove into him during the final stages of the race. P12 was a disaster, and Aston will be desperately hoping for more. (7.5/10)

(P13) Pierre Gasly:

I feel like AlphaTauri are in a pickle, as they’ve not scored any points since Spa! Pierre had an okay race until the rain came, when a gamble on dries and contact with Stroll ruined all his chances. He drove quite well, though. (7.5/10)

(P14) Esteban Ocon:

I genuinely have no idea what happened to Esteban. He was off the pace, and a gamble on dries failed, putting him down in 14th. A poor race indeed. (6/10)

(P15) Charles Leclerc:

Charles, like some others took the gamble to stay out on dries, and it backfired massively. A net P6 became P15 in no time, as the Monegasque driver struggled for grip in obviously poor conditions. His driving in the dry was quite impressive, just the strategy messed him up. (7.5/10)

(P16) Antonio Giovinazzi:

The Italian drove the entire race without any radio communication, and it might be one of the reasons he finished in a lowly P16. He did struggle, and will be hoping for better, as these are crucial times for him as he fights to retain his seat at Alfa for next year, and such results won’t help. (6.5/10)

(P17) Yuki Tsunoda:

Yuki was well off the pace, and his team ruined all his chances when they took a very questionable gamble on softs when everyone was switching to inters. It backfired, and he finished second to last, a disastrous race. (6/10)

(P18) Nikita Mazepin:

Nikita did alright considering the machinery he’s given, though last place at your home GP isn’t desirable by any means. Even the right strategy calls didn’t help, as he was so far behind the next car, he couldn’t do anything to change his situation.(5.5/10)

(DNF) Nicholas Latifi:

Nicholas had a quiet race, and retired a few laps from the end after clipping the barrier and sustaining damage to his wing, ending his race then and there. (5.5/10)

(DNF) Mick Schumacher:

The German had the first retirement of his F1 career at Sochi, though he drove an okay race until the point where he had to retire. (5.5/10)

WHO SHONE, WHO SUNK?

Who Shone: For me Lando, Lewis, Carlos and Fernando stood out, though the best of the lot was Lando, who was let down only by a poor strategy call, without which he would’ve certainly had his first ever race win!

Who Sunk: AlphaTauri’s strategy calls and Esteban were those who were lacking at Sochi in my opinion, as they faltered in the crucial closing stages, and missed out on massive opportunities.

The next race in Istanbul is one I’m quite looking forward to, as I personally really like the circuit, and last year’s race remains in the Top 3 F1 races I’ve ever seen! Bring it on, Istanbul!

(All picture rights belong to their respective owners.)

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