The Sochi Surprise

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Sochi is not one of my favourite tracks. If I missed it I wouldn’t be that bothered. I feel the same way about Monaco, it’s just a race I’ve never really found interesting.

Don’t get me wrong there has been some action in previous years. But I went into the weekend, knowing that after the cracking races at Monza and Mugello, Russia was going to be a bit of a let down.

Some of my fellow Nerds would disagree, and would tell you why they love the track. There are better tracks that could fill the calendar spot in my opinion.

Now I could go into a full race review and tell you my thoughts on it. It would be pretty short. The first half- surprising, good battles and some wheel to wheel racing. The midfield results have blown up the driver’s championship with Sainz crashing out, Stroll punted out, Renault benefiting from the safety car and Norris, Albon and Gasly hustling each other. Second half….well pretty standard Sochi. Boring.

But I know you really want to talk about Lewis Hamilton, his qualifying session and THAT penalty. Netflix clearly had a field day with this one.

So Hamilton could have equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix wins this weekend. But it wasn’t to be. I never thought I would say this but Hamilton survived Q2 by just 2 seconds. He had his Q2 time deleted for a track limit infringement which left him in the drop zone when Vettel crashed his Ferrari at turn 4, bringing out a red flag with just over 2 minutes of the session remaining. He crossed the line fit his fast lap with 2 seconds to spare, grabbing his 96th pole position, but starting on the soft tyres.

That is a disadvantage in itself. It’s a long run from the grid into the first braking zone at turn 2, he would have felt vulnerable to attacks from Bottas and Verstappen around him. With the track temperature above 40 degrees, they would have degraded quickly.

But he had other things on his mind. A 10 second time penalty. Handed to him by the stewards for the positioning of his practice starts. Now before I even looked at the rule book, I knew where he positioned his car in the pit lane to do his practice starts looked dangerous. He didn’t leave enough room to the cars on the left of him to get past safely, and they were coming out of the pit lane exit at speed.

The article in the sporting regulations that mention practice starts is article 19. It states “Pit lane starts must only be carried out on the right hand side after the pit exit lights and, for the avoidance of doubt, that includes any time the pit exit is open for the race.” That’s pretty clear and simple.

Then it states “Drivers must leave adequate room on their left for another driver to pass.” He didn’t.

The next paragraph is why he got slammed with a 5 second time penalty for both of his practice starts. It states “For reasons of safety and sporting equity, cars may not stop in the fast lane at any time the pit exit is open without a justifiable reason (a practice start is not a justifiable reason).”

So for those of you saying the penalty wasn’t justified, it was. It says it there in black and white. I am a Hamilton fan but the way he questioned it over team radio was uncalled for. Asking where it is in the rule book?! It’s there- article 19! It’s handed to the teams EVERY RACE WEEKEND. Hamilton wasn’t directly to blame, the team instructed him to complete his practice starts in those positions which his why the penalty points that were given to him as well as the time penalty were retracted.

But saying that people were out to get him because of the penalty given to him is utter nonsense. I’m losing respect for the guy with this poor attitude.

Is he saying that they handed him a penalty because the stewards didn’t want him to win? Ridiculous. At a time where the man is being criticised and hated on rather than being supported and praised, he is giving these fans more ammunition.

What a stark contrast to Daniel Ricciardo’s reaction to his penalty. His reaction after being given a 5 Second time penalty after taking the wrong route through the bollards at turn 2, he was cool about it. He said he would just “drive faster”. What a hero. Instead of moaning, he just got on with the race.

Hamilton will now have a chance to break records at the German Grand Prix in 2 weeks time. I can’t wait to see the midfield battles. With just 12 points separating Lando Norris in 4th, to Sergio Perez in 9th, it’s going to be fun to watch. Ricciardo is only 1 point behind Albon, Leclerc and Stroll are now equal on points, and Perez is now just 1 point behind Stroll, despite not having the upgrades this weekend at Sochi.

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