Verstappen did 2018’s best recovery drive yet – in eight laps

2018 Russian Grand Prix stats and facts

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Lewis Hamilton has celebrated few wins as un-enthusiastically as his 70th.

This wasn’t the first time he’s won a race after being waved through by a team mate – Nico Rosberg made way for him in Monaco two years ago – but the switch clearly didn’t please him.

Bottas went into the race still in championship contention and he retains a slim mathematical chance of winning the title, as does Kimi Raikkonen. Realistically, however, it’s between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and the latter’s hopes are fading fast.

To win the title Vettel needs to recover a deficit of 50 points – equal to exactly two wins – in five races. The only driver who’s overcome a gap of this size (in relative terms) in that many races or more was James Hunt when he won the 1976 world championship, and he was aided by Niki Lauda’s absence due to injury.

Although it bears pointing out that in the first year of the current points system Vettel went into the final two races a full win behind Fernando Alonso, yet snatched the title at the final race. But Hamilton has only dropped seven points from a possible 150 in the last six events.

Mercedes sustained their domination of the Russian Grand Prix. No other manufacturer has won this race since it was added to the F1 calendar at the beginning of the V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014.

Valtteri Bottas took the race’s fastest lap as a consolation prize. It was his eighth, putting him level with James Hunt, Gilles Villeneuve, Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button. He also took pole position, his sixth, tying with Phil Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann and Ralf Schumacher. On top of that he knocked 1.8 seconds off the Sochi track record.

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However it wasn’t Hamilton or Bottas who led the most laps of the race. That honour went to Max Verstappen, who eventually finished fifth after starting 19th.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2010
Vettel was an outsider when he won the 2010 title
His 14-place climb is the biggest improvement any driver has made on their starting position so far this year. While he obviously had a significant car advantage to do it with, the fact he made up all the places he kept within just eight laps is impressive.

Verstappen is one of five drivers to make up more than 10 places in a race this year, along with Hamilton (Germany), Bottas (Belgium), Daniel Ricciardo (Russia) and Fernando Alonso (Austria). But Verstappen is the only driver to have done it twice: he made up 11 places in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s grid penalties meant they had no reason to run in Q2, so they didn’t. The same went for Pierre Gasly and Renault realised they were unlikely to progress. With those five cars sitting out the session there was no competition for a place in the final 10.

Sauber took advantage of the situation to get both their cars into Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix. This also meant all six Ferrari-powered cars made it to the final round.

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Review the year so far in statistics here:

Have you spotted any other interesting stats and facts from the Russian Grand Prix? Share them in the comments.

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2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Verstappen did 2018’s best recovery drive yet – in eight laps”

  1. Well I enjoyed that drive from Max, mainly because it’s great to have someone other than the Merc and Ferrari drivers leading the race (although proved pointless anyway. I guess they were hoping for rain/safety car.) But I didn’t enjoy seeing not one car fought with Max, just like those recovery drives from Hamilton and Bottas in the earlier races. I found it really boring and bad advert for F1 that the top three teams slice through the field so easily. The division between F1-A and F1-B is too great at the moment. I don’t think this compares at all to his Brazil 2016 drive.

    1. Stroll did fight, he blocked him twice in the opening lap. Sainz squeezed him to the outside, but Verstappen just managed to get aside and then the pass was inevitable. But Max did line up brilliantly and passed them left and right, he gave them little chance to get defensive. Watch the onboard on the F1 site. You get the feeling that when he goes left he could just as well have chosen the other side, if he spotted the other car would cover that.

    2. Speaking of the Max, I wonder when Verstappen will get that pepsi sponcership ;)

    3. Yep, I agree, it was like watching an LMP1 car fight with LMP2… To me, there was nothing special about this, just a clear demonstration of F1’s sad categories at what is supposed to be the pinnacle.

      1. Nothing special? What about RIC? and don’t mention his damaged front spoiler, that just happend at the end of lap 1. At that moment he was still at pos 18 and Max at pos 12. So, Ric is just a loser?

    4. I agree that it was pointless, even though I voted him as the driver of the weekend by the show provided.
      Why pointless? He just managed to be ahead of his teammate.

  2. It was a good run, but in all honesty, recovery drives through the 2nd division are hardly noteworthy now.

    We could take some other cases into consideration (eg, Vettel in Italy and France, Lewis in GB) in this context – they all point to the recovery being expected for a 1st division car that finds itself out of position. In a few of the cases, the car has been somewhat the worse for wear too.

    1. There is in practise a 3 sec difference between VES and ALON (slowest car) in practise and in qualifing there is a gap from 4th Magn and Grosjean (last in qualy) of 2 tenth. So driving to this traffic in just 8 laps is fenomenal. And only four others could do that performance in 2018. Two of them world champions btw. Max did that twice in one year. Stop downplaying this sportsman. He is probably the most talented ever. While others are yelling crashtappen HE is 21, driving one of the best and fastest cars, making at least 20 milion a year and is most wanted by Mercedes, at the moment the best team in the world.

      1. Sorry, he’s just not that into you.

      2. @pietkoster, actually, when you look at the practise sessions, Verstappen had a pretty large pace advantage over the midfield pack.

        In FP3, the midfield pack were more than 0.7s away from Verstappen – Magnussen, since you mention him, was 0.9s slower – so the gap in Russia was a lot bigger than you claim it was.

        When you compare his lap times with the midfield pack during the race itself, the comparison is even more stark – as soon as Verstappen was in clear air, his average pace advantage over the teams in the midfield in that opening stint was closer to around 1.3 to 1.4s per lap, although at one point it was peaking at closer to 1.8s per lap.

        When you consider that Max’s pace advantage of about 1.3-1.4s a lap is the same as that which was predicted to be necessary to make a pass on another driver, then Max’s move through the field isn’t quite so remarkable – he’s almost literally able to drive right round his opponents whatever they do, such is the car he had at his disposal.

        I do have to agree with OldIron that, in reality, what it really seems to highlight more clearly is just how big a gap there is between the big three and the rest when the cars are not damaged – we’re swift to praise the drivers, but really the car is a major factor there.

        1. And @anon, having a better engine doesn’t seem to help at all, makes you wonder how it is possible to have such an advantage as the top 3 teams have in their chassis’ alone.

  3. Why was Max so slow after switching to the softer tyre late in the race? I felt they should have pitted him earlier and gone on the hyper soft (or whatever it’s called) to try and get on terms with Kimi.

    1. They calculated that catching Räikkönen was a very small change, so he turned down the engine and just brought it home. Remember they are facing grid penalties with every new major power-unit component. So better save that Renault PU.

    2. The Ultrasoft tyres were cooked after six laps or so and the hypersofts would have been even worse. The harder – soft tyre was the race tyre to be on in Sochi.

      1. I believe that too. Same deal as in Russia and Red Bull ring, there is not much gain or none using a softer compound.

  4. “James Hunt when he won the 1976 world championship, and he was aided by Niki Lauda’s absence due to injury.”

    I was wondering about this. Much praise has been given to Merc handing the victory to Bottas because it was mathmatically a no brainer. But…

    At this point the most likely reason Hamilton won’t win is because he can’t participate. Maybe an injury, or he gets #metoo’ed, etc.

    In that case Merc has taken seven critical points from Bottas. It probably wouldn’t be enough to help. But of course Hamilton probably won’t need them either.

    1. At this point the most likely reason Hamilton won’t win is because he can’t participate. Maybe an injury, or he gets #metoo’ed, etc.

      Do you have information that might be useful to … certain parties?

      1. @juan-fanger

        I’m not implying Hamilton isn’t a stand up guy. I’m just saying stuff happens, and there is a lot of that going around.

        Perhaps I should have said “crashes his mountain bike, sports car, etc.”

    2. It’s not that farfetched of a scenario either. The same thing happened to Ferrari in 1999. They ordered Irvine to let Schumacher through in the French GP, but when Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone, Irvine became their #1. Without losing those points to Schumacher in France Irvine would’ve been able to take P2 behind Hakkinen in Japan and win the title.

      That said, I don’t think you can necessarily plan for random things like that to happen and I fully agree with what Mercedes did in Sochi. Whichever way around they did it (swap or no swap) it could always come back to bite them in hindsight, so you can only go on the situation as it is now.

      1. Eddie often “went wide” at a corner to let the Schue through. Team orders were in play during those days. Just as they are now. Nothing new at all.

    3. It was a good drive , however the Merc, Fer and RBR cars have such a pace advantage that a top 6 is always expected no matter the starting position. It was a good comeback, but it’s not the best of the season . IMO that would go to Hamilton in Germany

    4. I think it was a no brainer. It makes the championship easier for HAM and BOT was ahead of RAI and not fighting for the championship.

  5. And for that entire 8 laps we had to put up with Crofty and co raving about Max when in reality most of the cars in front just got out of his road knowing they would only jeopardise their own races by fighting him (and risk car damage)

    It was just another demonstration of the huge gap between the top 3 teams and the rest. RB were always confident that they would get 5th and 6th so there was really no surprise there.

    Yes Max did a good job, no argument there, but I think the lavish praise from the Sky team was just a little over the top.

    1. When most of the cars in front just got out of his road, Max did a superb job building his reputation…
      RIC’s repuation as a nic guy seems not to help him….(and don’t mention his damaged front spoiler, that just happend at the end of lap 1. At that moment he was still at pos 18 and Max at pos 12)

  6. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    3rd October 2018, 6:13

    Didn’t Vettel make up more than 10 places in France and Italy? Or doesn’t it count because he started both times in the top 3?

    1. Or Button 2011 Canada, was effectively last in 21st position, 3 drivers retired, on lap 37 and won the race.

      1. 3 drivers had retired

        When are we going to get EDIT.

      2. @w-k That probably makes it sound a bit better than it really was. There were so many safety cars that race, that Button effectively didn’t lose any time overtaking the slower cars in the field, as all the time he would lose relative to the leaders whilst behind slower cars and overtaking them, would be wiped out by a safety car. I mean, when the final safety car came out, he was already in fourth place, so in reality, his charge on Vettel started from there. Not saying it wasn’t impressive, but not quite as impressive as it sounds like. It is similar to Abu Dhabi 2012. Records will show that Vettel finished 3rd, and within 5 seconds of the leader from the back of the grid. In reality, he would have finished a very distant 4th, and that is still in addition to the positions he gained from Hamilton’s retirement, Maldonado’s KERS problem etc.

  7. While i do agree with many on here. The mid and back end of the racers did not do much to defend against max. Still max had to maie those moves. Im also guessing that the other drivers would prefer not to defend against max bcos he has a history of smashing into people…

  8. The shortest Russian GP to date in terms of duration.

    Only the second Russian GP so far to feature zero SC-periods. The first since the inaugural 2014 race.

    Mercedes remain undefeated in Russian GP F1 history, with the Silver Arrows securing their third 1-2 at the Sochi Autodrom in the process.

    Lewis Hamilton secured his 49th win for Mercedes (the only man to win 50 for a single team is Michael Schumacher at Ferrari – with 58 wins).

    Vettel leaves the Russian Grand Prix on 256 points – the same total he scored in the entire 2010 season when he won his maiden championship with Red Bull.

    Raikkonen finished in the points for the 200th time in his career, joining Schumacher and Fernando Alonso as the only men to do so.

    Verstappen led the most laps on Sunday from 19th on the grid – and he also led Red Bull’s 3,500th lap in their constructor history.

    Ricciardo finished in the top six in Sochi for the first time in his career (this is his least-successful track in F1).

    Leclerc came home seventh, meaning Sauber have scored in 10 races this year, the most since 2013.

    Magnussen has now finished in the top eight in Russia three times in four visits, and his 15-race finishing streak is the longest current streak in F1.

    Ocon and Perez give Force India a double-points finish for the third time in the last four races.

    The only retirements in Sochi were the two Toro Rossos – the shortest race for the team since the 2009 Spanish GP (a race in which they were both out on lap 1).

    1. Was this the first race of the year without (virtual) safety car periods?

  9. And in a car with 300hp less than the other cars. How that Redbull breezes past other cars with that power deficit is remarkable.

  10. AKA the entire field of division b cars let Max past, because it would’ve been pointless to lose time defending against a far faster Red bull that was effectively competing in a different race. It’s hardly an epic accomplishment these days, and barely noteworthy.

    1. And RIC?

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