While Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean notably struggled in Russia, a handful of drivers were far happier with their results in the fourth round of the season.
1. Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas provided a firm reply to those critics who were expecting him to play a number two role at Mercedes.
Hamilton may have been enduring one of his worst weekends in recent memory, but beating the Englishman by half a second in the same car is no fluke.
In the race, too, Bottas was at his very best, making a rocketing start from third on the grid to move into the lead by Turn 2.
He built a four second advantage in the first stint on the ultrasoft tyres, the same compound with which he showed blistering pace in Friday long runs.
The second part of the race was tougher for the Finn, with Vettel hammering him down on fresher tyres. A big lock-up didn’t do him any good, but he nevertheless did a decent job of holding his position and entering the elite club of grand prix winners.
2. Sebastian Vettel
If the run down to the first braking zone at Sochi Autodrom, Turn 2, was not so far from the start line, Vettel should have held the lead from Bottas.
With the Mercedes driver out in front and showing better pace on ultrasofts, Vettel had no option but to settle in second place and change his strategy to put himself in contention in the second half of the race.
A late pitstop did exactly that, allowing him to chase down Bottas on a fresher set of tyres. The German was right behind the Finn with a couple of laps to go, but simply couldn’t find a way past to retake the lead.
The inconvenient place where he caught Massa, who was a lap down, didn’t do him any favours.
3. Sergio Perez
Given how far Force India is to the rest of the midfield pack in terms of pure pace, you can’t refute with Sergio Perez when he says the Silverstone-based team’s fourth position in the constructors championship is a “miracle”.
The upgrades introduced in the Bahrain Grand Prix and tested further in the in-season test allowed Perez to qualify in the top 10.
On Sunday, he made a good start and was able to jump Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault. From there on, it was all about managing the pace, knowing there was no opportunity further up the road, nor a threat from behind.
A retirement for Daniel Ricciardo and a slow-puncture for Felipe Massa elevated the Mexican to seventh place, his best result of the season so far.
4. Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon mirrored his teammate Perez, making it into Q3 for the first time in his career to put himself in a strong position for the race.
Just like Perez, he passed Hulkenberg at the start of the race and cruised his way to the chequered flag, securing a career best seventh place finish.
5. Max Verstappen
Given how far Mercedes and Ferrari were, fifth was the maximum Verstappen could have secured in the Russian Grand Prix.
He jumped from seventh place on the opening lap, picking off teammate Ricciardo and Williams’ Massa . From there on, he drove a lonely race to finish as the best of the rest.
by Rachit Thukral