Russian Grand Prix 2017

3 May 2017

Race 4 – 52 Laps – 5.848km per lap – 303.897km race distance – very low tyre wear

Russian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Josh Kruse from

The Russian Grand Prix wasn’t a thriller, but we weren’t expecting one at the Sochi Autodrom. However, it did throw up a fair few exciting moments and an intense battle for victory.

Valtteri Bottas stormed into the lead at the start and looked in control through the first part of the race, before coming under pressure from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari late on.

Despite having Vettel breathing down his neck, he kept ice cool to secured his maiden F1 win. Vettel came home second, with Kimi Raikkonen picking up his first podium of 2017 in third.

The unsurprisingly low degradation at the Sochi Autodrom limited strategy opportunities, but there was still a decent amount of strategy storylines to emerge from the Russian GP:

Lightning start

Mercedes and Ferrari looked pretty equal in terms of race pace, so the start was going to be crucial in deciding the Russian GP. Bottas got the perfect launch from the line and tucked into Vettel’s slipstream, moving ahead of him on the run to Turn 2. It was the moment that won him the race.

Ferrari tries something different

Completing fewer laps in Q2 gave Ferrari slightly fresher tyres for the first stint of the race and with the SF70H seeming to be kinder on the Pirelli rubber too, it allowed the team to try a slightly different strategy in order to leap-frog Bottas.

Of course, it didn’t work, but it was still worth a shot. Vettel ran seven laps longer for his first stint, and was still putting in good lap times before diving into the pits. He lost 2.1 seconds to Bottas in the pit phase but a strong run-up to the stop helped him stay ahead of Raikkonen.

Running longer was a gamble for Ferrari but practice long-run pace had indicated the Prancing Horse may have had the edge. From there, with seven laps fresher tyres, Vettel was able to gradually chip away at the leader – helped by a small error by Bottas at Turn 13.

This brought him right into contention but traffic played its part as he got onto the gearbox of the Mercedes. On the last lap, Bottas passed Felipe Massa’s Williams easily on the main straight, but Vettel had to wait until Turn 4 to do so and this cost him vital seconds.

Bottas could well have hung onto the lead even if Massa hadn’t been there, but it certainly provided him with more breathing room.

Hamilton struggles

It was an unusually forgettable weekend in Russia for Lewis Hamilton, on a track many expected Mercedes to dominate at. He looked in better shape on Friday but lost some form on Saturday, before struggling with overheating from a very early part of the race.

He pitted on lap 30, one lap later than Raikkonen and four before Vettel, but wasn’t able to make the most of the fresher tyres due to the overheating issues. Hamilton believes there were some set-up issues as well, which didn’t help matters. So, a lot of work to do for Mercedes to work out what went wrong.


Massa loses positions

A slow puncture for Felipe Massa cost him a potential sixth place. He was on for a one-stop strategy but a trip to the pits on lap 41, switching from new super-softs to used ultra-softs, caused him to fall to the bottom of the top 10. Despite the fresher tyres, he was unable to make much progress in the end and finished one lap down in ninth.

Hulkenberg on the alternate

One of the major strategies that stood out in the race was Nico Hulkenberg’s drive to eighth. He went very, very long on the ultra-softs, putting in a huge 40-lap stint, which left him with fresh super-softs for the final 12-lap run to the flag.

A poor start lost him positions and the alternative strategy looked to be a bid to claw back ground but he finished eighth, just behind Esteban Ocon in the second Force India. The sole Renault to make it to the chequered flag looked decent in race trim, so more could’ve been possible without lap one.

Going for a two-stop

Only four drivers stopped twice for new tyres, and Massa’s was unscheduled. For Stoffel Vandoorne, Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, they pitted for the first time at the end of lap one, after the safety car was deployed to clear Jolyon Palmer and Romain Grosjean’s crashed cars.

It was thought that they’d be able to ditch the super-softs they started the race on and make it to the end on ultra-softs but that wasn’t the case for any of the drivers. They all pitted from laps 20-24 and then ran to the end.

The strategy was a brave one and was probably done to try and catapult the cars into a point or two if the opportunity arose, but none of the three drivers had the pace to really make an impact on the top 10 and they were the last of the finishers, Vandoorne 14th ahead of Ericsson and Wehrlein.


Low deg

The Sochi Autodrom’s smooth surface meant there was very low degradation, so a one-stop was always going to be the favoured strategy. Hulkenberg put in the most laps on the ultra-soft with 40, while Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat managed 30 laps on the ultra-softs.

Soft tyres barely featured at all throughout the weekend, due to the low wear and grip levels, so the higher grip super and ultra-softs were inevitably going to dominate. In fact, the softs only appeared on Friday and not much running was completed on them.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Ultrasoft: Hulkenberg (40 laps)
Supersoft: Magnussen (30 laps)

All the Data

Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics



Stints by Driver

SCSafety Car
Lap 1-3


mcclorine2. Vandoorne
Start P20
Supersoft 1 laps Pit 30.006
Ultrasoft 23 laps Pit 35.998
Ultrasoft 27 laps
Finished P14 (+6)


redass3. Ricciardo
Start P5
Used Ultrasoft 5 laps
Retired L5 (DNF)


Stallion5. Vettel
Start P1
Used Ultrasoft 34 laps Pit 30.097
Supersoft 18 laps
Finished P2 (-1)


Stallion7. Raikkonen
Start P2
Used Ultrasoft 29 laps Pit 30.152
Supersoft 23 laps
Finished P3 (-1)


has8. Grosjean
Start P19
Ultrasoft 1 laps
Retired L1 (DNF)


saucer9. Ericsson
Start P18
Supersoft 1 laps Pit 32.235
Ultrasoft 20 laps Pit 30.655
Ultrasoft 30 laps
Finished P15 (+3)


RR11. Perez
Start P9
Used Ultrasoft 27 laps Pit 29.868
Supersoft 25 laps
Finished P6 (+3)


mcclorine14. Alonso
Start P15
Ultrasoft 1 laps
Retired L1 (DNF)


Franks18. Stroll
Start P11
Ultrasoft 26 laps Pit 29.791
Supersoft 25 laps
Finished P11 (+0)


Franks19. Massa
Start P6
Used Ultrasoft 21 laps Pit 29.923
Supersoft 20 laps Pit 29.92
Used Ultrasoft 10 laps
Finished P9 (-3)


has20. Magnussen
Start P13
Ultrasoft 21 laps Pit 36.559
Supersoft 30 laps
Finished P13 (+0)
Torro26. Kvyat
Start P12
Ultrasoft 21 laps Pit 29.991
Supersoft 30 laps
Finished P12 (+0)


Boatus27. Hulkenberg
Start P8
Used Ultrasoft 40 laps Pit 30.28
Supersoft 12 laps
Finished P8 (+0)


Boatus30. Palmer
Start P16
Ultrasoft 1 laps
Retired LF (DNF)


redass33. Verstappen
Start P7
Used Ultrasoft 29 laps Pit 29.567
Supersoft 23 laps
Finished P5 (+2)


saucer94. Wehrlein
Start P17
Supersoft 2 laps Pit 31.266
Ultrasoft 18 laps Pit 30.799
Ultrasoft 30 laps
Finished P16 (+1)


mercury44. Hamilton
Start P4
Used Ultrasoft 30 laps Pit 29.739
Supersoft 22 laps
Finished P4 (+0)


Torro55. Sainz
Start P14
Ultrasoft 24 laps Pit 29.973
Supersoft 27 laps
Finished P10 (+4)


mercury77. Bottas
Start P3
Used Ultrasoft 27 laps Pit 29.356
Supersoft 25 laps
Finished P1 (+2)


RR31. Ocon
Start P10
Used Ultrasoft 26 laps Pit 30.253
Supersoft 26 laps
Finished P7 (+3)