F1 Business Diary 2018: The Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton wins but race overshadowed by team orders debate.

Lewis Hamilton claimed a 50-point lead over Sebastian Vettel by winning the Russian Grand Prix in curious circumstances.

However, the victory came amid the controversy of a team orders row, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas forced to hand over the lead to the Englishman in order to protect him from Ferrari’s Vettel.

The distance between Hamilton and Vettel – both four-time world champions – is now such that even if the German was to win all five remaining races, he would not be assured of claiming a fifth title.

Hamilton is now in total control, but admitted after winning in front of Vladimir Putin that he regretted the turn of events that had seen him take victory from his teammate, with Bottas dominating in qualifying and beginning the race in pole position.

Even on Hamilton’s slowing down lap after securing his win, he said over his team radio: “That doesn't feel great.”

Team bosses stand up for Pirelli ahead of tyre decision

Formula One team bosses have defended Pirelli’s contribution to Formula One in recent years, with the current tyre supplier facing competition from Hankook for the new tender from 2020 to 2023.

The two companies are being evaluated by the FIA, with commercial talks between the candidates and Formula One bosses set to decide the result.

Despite facing regular criticism in recent times from teams and supporters, team bosses have praised the efforts of Pirelli, citing often ‘impossible’ circumstances.

Toto Wolff, the team principal at Mercedes, said: “Pirelli has been with us for a long time as a stable partner, and they have been given an impossible task that whatever specification we ask for and they deliver, it is not as good as it should be.”

He added: “Mario [Isola, Pirelli racing boss] has stood firm with the teams complaining, and Pirelli is a great brand and a pillar of the sport. That has to be considered.

Cyril Abiteboul, the managing director of Renault, agreed with Wolff, highlighting the importance of the new supplier being assisted by greater clarity in the competition’s rules.

He explained: “What is really important is to make sure to define what is good for the sport, for the fans, for the show and for the future – and we stick with it.

“As Toto [Wolff] said, every single time we come with a request, and I think Pirelli has delivered, it seems to make us even more unhappy than the situation before.

“It is really important that we have good think about that and give time and stability to Pirelli or anyone else to develop the right product.”

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul has defended Pirelli's record ahead of Formula One's decision on the future of its tyre supplier.

Liberty Media weighing up additional qualifying session

The FIA is considering altering the race weekend qualifying system used in Formula One by adding a fourth session from 2019.

The new format was suggested at a recent meeting of the Formula One Strategy Group and would see four cars being eliminated in each of the first three qualifying periods, with just eight remaining for a final shootout in a fourth session.

The logic behind the concept is centred around forcing the top cars to race three times in order to even reach the final qualification period.

The idea, which was first suggested by Formula One itself, will be subject to further discussions.

Race director Charlie Whiting said: “It's more something that's come from F1. They've been doing a lot of research among fans, and they feel this is one of the things that the fans would like.

“Slightly shorter [sessions], slightly shorter time between them, four go out in Q1, four, four, leaving eight.

“I personally think it's quite a nice idea, but that's not my decision.”


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