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Russian GP Report Card

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The Sochi Autodrom played host to round four of the 2016 F1 season.

The remainder of the Russian Grand Prix failed to live up to the excitement of the first few laps when carnage ensued and Kvyat and Vettel collided once again, this time causing the four time champion to end the race in the wall. Nico Rosberg's seventh race victory on the trot is a remarkable achievement for any racing driver, and there were some standout performances all the way up and down the field. Read on to find my assessment of how each driver performed in my Russian Grand Prix report card. 1st - Nico Rosberg - Grade A+ Nico didn't put a foot wrong all weekend and from the moment he made a clean getaway the race was effectively won. There was a brief moment during the second stint where Hamilton looked to be catching but pole position, fastest lap and the race victory ensured Rosberg took the Grand Slam for the first time in his career. Seven races on the trot is a incredible result and regardless of what Rosberg says in interviews it will surely require a monumental effort for Rosberg's lead to be overhauled. 

2nd – Lewis Hamilton – Grade A+

I think pace wise, Lewis was equally as fast, if not faster than Rosberg during the race and was it not for the 10th place start and water pressure issue, we could have been in for a grandstand race to the finish. There’s been a lot of talk about how unlucky Hamilton has been over the course of the first four races of the season and the stars certainly haven’t yet aligned for the 2015 champion. Nevertheless, the speed was still there today and to come from 10th on the grid to 2nd is fantastic damage limitation.

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Contrasting fortunes once again at Mercedes.

3rd – Kimi Raikkonen – Grade A/B

Raikkonen recovered from what was a disappointing qualifying to take Ferrari’s 700th F1 podium. Ferrari were faster than Williams in race trim, yet not as fast as Mercedes so third was probably the best the Scuderia could have hoped for after Vettel’s race ended in the wall. Raikkonen defended maturely against Hamilton in the early stages where some less experienced drivers may have ran him off the road however getting caught out by Bottas at the restart was a small blemish on what turned out to be a very solid weekend for Kimi.

4th – Valtteri Bottas – Grade A 

I’m sure Williams and Bottas will be pleased to bag a solid points finish after a couple of difficult races where they looked to be severely lacking behind Red Bull. Bottas defended well in the first stint of the race but ultimately lost out to Hamilton and Raikkonen after the round of pitstops. Nevertheless, 4th is a welcome result for Bottas and gets his season back on the right track.

5th – Felipe Massa – Grade B+

Massa enjoyed a quiet, yet sensible afternoon on his way to fifth place in the race, exactly where he started on the grid. He was able to take advantage of the gap to Alonso and take an extra pit stop towards the end of the race yet wasn’t quite able to keep up with Bottas in qualifying or the race this afternoon.

6th – Fernando Alonso – Grade A

To be in seventh by the end of lap one is incredible considering Alonso lined up 14th on the grid, and that feat is made even more incredible by the fact Alonso was in a McLaren. Despite showing significant improvements since the start of the season today was the first race of the year in which McLaren were properly rewarded for their efforts and it was great to see Alonso taking the fight to the cars around him early on in the race. Sochi on paper was a track which should have been difficult for Alonso yet his fast lap on lap 44 showed that McLaren and Honda are really starting to move in the right direction.

7th – Kevin Magnussen – Grade A+

Magnussen bagged Renault’s first points back as a constructor coming home in seventh place, a great result for a driver which started the race in 17th place on the grid, and just one place in front of his teammate Palmer who would finish the race in 13th. Magnussen proved today that Renault made the right choice choosing to sign him over Pastor Maldonado, it’s hard to believe that Maldonado wouldn’t have been in some way involved in the first lap chaos. Renault, like McLaren and Haas were clearly a little lucky today that potential points scorers Vettel, Hulkenberg and Verstappen failed to make the finish yet taking advantage when rivals fail to finish is a key part of a successful season.

8th – Romain Grosjean – Grade A-

Haas were another team, like Renault who probably didn’t expect to score points today, and again, like Renault they proved that signing an experienced driver pays dividends. Grosjean kept his nose out of trouble all race long and did an immense final stint on a old set of tyres to come from 15th on the grid to 8th at the checkered flag and ensure Haas F1 scored points in three out of their first four races as an F1 team.

9th – Sergio Perez – Grade A-

Perez was another driver who had a solid, yet understated drive on what was his 100th race weekend as an F1 driver. He drove an excellent recovery drive to finish in the points having had to make an extra pit stop near the start of the race.

10th – Jenson Button – Grade A-/B+

Button’s move on Sainz secured McLaren’s first double points finish since Hungary last year although as a result of Sainz’s penalty he would have finished in 10th regardless. 10th place in the race from 12th on the grid is good progress for Button who like Alonso, would have probably expected to struggle more this weekend and it was nice to see McLaren’s overtaking cars and moving forwards in the race under their own steam, unlike last year when all to often they just went backwards.

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It’s great to see McLaren starting to move forward in the races.

11th – Daniel Ricciardo – Grade B

Through no fault of his own, Ricciardo’s race was ruined after he collided with Vettel, who was pushed by Kvyat on lap one. A poor strategy call to fit the medium tyres ensured that from the end of lap one Ricciardo’s race was effectively over as both Red Bulls struggled and scrapped with the Manors and Saubers before eventually fighting back to the lower reaches of the midfield.

12th – Carlos Sainz – Grade B

Had it not been for what was arguably a harsh penalty call Sainz would have finished just one place higher after he was passed by Button with a few laps to go. You’ve got to feel a little for Toro Rosso, who started the 2016 season with bags of promise but they’ve yet to have their pace rewarded with a good haul of points. I fear time may be running out for Toro Rosso to take advantage of their 2015 Ferrari power unit as Renault and now Honda look to be taking strides with their respective engines and I feel both Sainz and Verstappen are due a big result.

13th – Jolyon Palmer – Grade B/B-

I think the weekend will be a bittersweet one for Palmer. A definite improvement on Shanghai and his 18th place on the grid in Russia, yet I feel that he’ll be disappointed that Magnussen managed to finish in 7th from just one place higher on the grid. I think all the talk about Palmer’s future at Renault is highly unfair and unjust considering we are merely four races into the season, and one which also happens to be his rookie year but I’m sure an improvement will be expected over the next few races if Palmer is looking to keep Kevin Magnussen honest.

14th – Marcus Ericsson – Grade B+

From 22nd and dead last on the grid Ericsson had a respectable race to 14th at the flag, finishing ahead of one Red Bull, a Haas, his teammate and a Manor, who look to be their closest rivals this season. Ericsson ran in the top ten before his pitstop but I think at the moment 14th place is about the best Sauber could have hoped for.

15th – Danil Kvyat – Grade C

It’s such a shame that after an incredible race in China Kvyat’s home Grand Prix ended, and indeed started the way it did. I think a large amount of the flack on social media is a little unjust however, I mean as Ted Kravitz alluded to in the Sky Sports commentary Vettel was guilty of his fair share of incidents early on in his career. Kvyat seems a strong character and there would almost certainly be less attention on him if he had ran into any other driver apart from Vettel. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some fallout from this during the next week or so but at the end of the day, Kvyat has proved his talent on many occasions and I expect normal service to be resumed in Spain.

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Kvyat endured a miserable home race and served a stop go penalty for his involvement in Vettel’s accident.

16th – Felipe Nasr – Grade B-

Nasr was another driver who had a quiet afternoon and perhaps was a little unfairly treated by Palmer who ran him wide early on in the race. Nevertheless, like his teammate, a 16th place finish is about the best Nasr could have hoped for from 19th place on the grid.

17th – Esteban Gutierrez – Grade C+

Gutierrez was once again overshadowed by his teammate Grosjean. From 16th place on the grid Gutierrez was one of the few drivers apart from the Red Bulls to actually lose ground during the race as Haas once again struggled to understand the tyres.

18th – Pascal Wehrlein – Grade B

We didn’t see too much of Pascal during the race apart from some dogged defending and overtaking in the opening stint. Overrunning his mark at his final stop put paid to his chances of finishing anywhere but last on a weekend where he qualified ahead of one of the Saubers.

 

 

 

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