Settling in to watch the Russian Grand Prix, from Sochi, I was immediately struck by the parasols covering the drivers and the boats in the harbour. As the commentators kept referring to it as the ‘Russian Riviera’ I immediately thought “why aren’t we organising a car tour to Russia?”. The scenery of the Black Sea would surely make it perfect. Crossing the whole of the Ukraine would make for some epic scenery, plus the opportunity for some summer skiing. Unfortunately, at 2,300 miles away, this would fall into the category of a very Grand car tour indeed. Requiring cars to be transported and drivers to be flown is less ‘driving holiday’, and more ‘holiday’. Maybe next year, or the year after….
While the race was not a classic, there was plenty of intrigue. Charles Leclerc, once again, blitzed the whole field in qualifying and had nearly half a second over his team-mate. Off the start the Ferraris shot out of the blocks quicker than anyone. The tow down the long straight to the first corner was so strong that Vettel breezed past Leclerc and took a lead that he began to consolidate. This was clearly in the plan as Leclercs engineer came over the radio to say they were going to “do their swap later”, and then Vettel was repeatedly asked to “Lets Charles by”. An order he chose to ignore. At Ferrari no driver is bigger than the team, and Vettel was given a lesson in this by being left out of aging tyres way to long. By the time his stop was over, Charles Leclerc was firmly back in the lead.
But it was not to be. Vettels Ferrari ground to a halt due to an MGU-K failure, triggering a Virtual Safety Car, and allowing the Mercedes drivers to get a cheap pitstop. As they left the pits ahead of the lone Ferrari, victory was now almost certain. A virtuous 1-2 for Mercedes means Lewis Hamilton goes into the last quarter of the year 73 points clear of his nearest rival. Could we see Lewis Hamilton have the championship tied up by Mexico?