Infiniti Red Bull Racing experienced a low-key Russian Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom this afternoon where Daniel Ricciardo came home seventh and team-mate Sebastian Vettel eighth. Further back, Scuderia Toro Rosso struggled to translate their strong qualifying form into race pace after Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat finished 13th and 14th respectively.
Weather conditions couldn’t have been more different to those at Suzuka seven days earlier, with bright sunshine, clear skies and warm temperatures present throughout the afternoon. Low tyre degradation, especially on the prime rubber, allowed much of the field to make just one pit-stop and maintain strong lap times throughout each stint, regardless of the compound.
Vettel was the main beneficiary of a congested run to the second corner, from which he emerged seventh after starting 10th. Ricciardo was right with him though and it wasn’t long before both Red Bull drivers had passed the fast-starting Vergne. The pair continued to run in close formation until lap 12 when the Australian pitted for his mandatory switch on to the harder prime tyre. Not until Vettel did likewise 19 laps later did the battle shake out, with Ricciardo jumping the world champion before setting off in pursuit of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. But after the Spaniard held his ground, and with Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes recovering from an early out of sequence pit-stop, Ricciardo was forced to settle for seventh ahead of Vettel.
After a promising qualifying session had seen both cars qualify inside the top-10, Scuderia Toro Rosso spent much of the afternoon fighting a rear-guard action. Vergne made an electric start to initially jump up to fifth from ninth, but was soon overhauled by the chasing pack despite offering a particularly feisty defence against McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen. The need to conserve fuel eventually saw the Frenchman come home 13th, one place clear of team-mate Kvyat who couldn’t capitalise on his career-best fifth place in qualifying.
Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean recovered from a five-second stop/go penalty for a marginal altercation with Sauber’s Adrian Sutil to finish 17th, while team-mate Pastor Maldonado was 18th.
Caterham F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson maintained his qualifying form by hassling both Lotus drivers throughout, before a late pit-stop saw him finish 19th. Kamui Kobayashi retired with a brake problem.
Mercedes’ one-two helped them clinch the Constructors’ crown, taking the title away from Infiniti Red Bull Racing who consolidated their second spot in the standings. Ricciardo remains a strong third, while Vettel slips to fifth in the fight for fourth with Valtteri Bottas and Alonso.
Rémi Taffin, Head of Track Operations:
Sochi was a tough race for us so to get two cars in the top-10 was a good result, even if we’re used to finishing higher. Daniel might have been able to fight for a better finish had he not been swamped at the start and only having one pit-stop to play with. There was also minimal tyre degradation so being smooth didn’t pay its usual dividends.
This was the first time that anyone had raced at Sochi and there was no prior data to base our analysis on. Nevertheless, I thought everyone did a great job to manage their energy and fuel consumption, as we knew it would be marginal. Our reliability was also good here, but in the end we don’t have too many points to show for it. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Finally, I must congratulate our great rivals Mercedes for wrapping up the Constructors’ title. We know the feeling well and will be doing everything in our power to take it back. That starts as early as Austin in three weeks when, for the first time since 2010, we will be the challengers! There is still much to play for and we’ll be doing everything possible to help Red Bull secure second in the championship.