For a moment, Ferrari looked to have pulled a strategic masterstroke, but a determined Lewis Hamilton was able to regain position over Sebastian Vettel, before team orders sealed the result.
Russia delivered mixed fortunes up and down the grid, here’s our power rankings for the race.
Moving on up
▲ Valtteri Bottas might have only led the race for 11 laps, but everybody knows he deserved the win on merit and sacrificed it for his teammate. Performances like this are why Mercedes were keen to resign the Finn, and he’ll be hungrier than ever for more outright victories when circumstances are more equitable.
▲ Max Verstappen stormed from last but one into the top 6 in the early phase, and running ahead of the leaders after the first round of pitstops put him in contention to win if a safety car were unexpectedly deployed. Beyond just his pure aggression, his level-headed, hard but fair racing have been most impressive since the summer break.
▲ Charles Leclerc again impressed achieving not only the “best of the rest”, but the only driver outside of the top 6 to avoid being lapped. Sauber had both drivers into Q3 in qualifying, but Leclerc was a class above Ericsson, treating us with a preview of what is to come when he’s dressed in red overalls next year.
▼ Sergio Perez backed up his forgettable performance in Singapore with a mediocre showing in Sochi, with his only notable accomplishment being given track position over his teammate, only to fail to make any progress and was ordered to let Ocon back through. Maybe the call came too late to take advantage of his tyre delta, but if his pace was genuine then passing Ocon also should have been easier, and with hindsight his protestations appear unjustified.
▼ Toro Rosso had a double failure in the opening laps thanks to some misbehaving brakes. On the same weekend they announced the return of Kvyat, Russia was a cloud without a silver lining for the junior team.
▼ Renault’s tyre strategy raised eyebrows, when the team sat out Q2 to conserve tyres for the race. Russia’s characteristics didn’t help Hulkenberg progress through the field, and some early contact left Sainz tumbling from P12 to finish P17.