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F1 Grand Prix - Russia 2017 - a major yawn-fest.

CoNet Administrator

I've had to watch a recording of yesterday's race before I could write a fair piece. And that's because, twice, I fell asleep during the race. At least with a recording, when I fell asleep again, I could go back and see the parts I missed. There has not been such a race of nothingness for .. well, since Bahrain 2010. Seriously.

OK, so the first three corners were exciting but because of an astonishing off-track move by Grosjean in which he speared into the side of Palmer causing Palmer to spin and, karma's a bitch, spear into Grosjean as he tried to drive around resulting in their cars being dismantled by force and the big bits being thrust into the tyre barriers. The stewards decided to investigate that after the race, Palmer pointing out that he had the line, Grosjean came in from behind on the kerb and that he, Palmer, could not take evasive action because there was a Sauber right next to him on the outside of the corner. Grosjean argued that Palmer shut the door when he should have made room. Make up your own mind with the video here: https://www.formula1.com/en/la.... It's clear from the sequence that Grosjean was on the kerbs before the apex and should have braked but the Stewards decided it was not the fault of one driver more than the other.

That incident meant that some cars changed tyres but at the front, Bottas who had made an impressive start and before the first proper corner (officially Turn 2 but Turn 1 is widely regarded as a flat out kink not a real corner) had moved from P3 on the grid to pass both of the Ferarris that started ahead of him. The safety car went back in, Bottas shot off into the distance and then absolutely nothing happened until a few laps from the end.

Commentators were reduced to trying to make tyre changes sound exciting, pit crews sat, arms folded, looking for all the world like they'd rather be almost anywhere else. I found myself re-running Raikkonen's final qualifying lap and comparing it to Vettel's just to see if Kimi had missed pole position due only to a last-corner over-run (I decided he had - he was less than five hundredths of a second behind his team-mate). Shame: he's not had pole since the French Grand Prix in 2008. In the race, he almost seemed to be happy being Vettel's rear gunner from the non-existent threat from Hamilton who was woefully out of sorts. After qualifying, Hamilton implied that the biggest problem with the car was the component behind the wheel, a view that Mercedes' Niki Lauda seemed to quietly endorse. In the race, Hamilton seemed to do little but potter around after Raikkonen just far enough behind to avoid turbulence. Of course, that's not true but this is Hamilton we are talking about for him anything less than Hammer Time is a poor performance, even when his biggest challenge for the entire race was to prevent the car overheating and to listen to a constant drone of information from the pit wall about temperatures. Frustrated, he even questioned if he was going to be able to race. After the race he said " I've never had cooling issues like that before but it meant I was out of the race from the get-go. I think I had the pace to fight with Kimi, but the car just kept overheating." Toto Wolff made it clear that no blame attached to Hamilton: " it's clear we didn't give him the car to do the job this weekend and it is a priority for us to sort this out before Barcelona.”

Through all the dullness, it was Valtteri Bottas who shone. After changing from the Super-soft to Soft tyres, his car lost a bit of its blistering pace and, after Vettel changed his tyres some seven laps later, the German started to eat into the Finn's lead. As the newness wore off, Vettel's charge slowed but it was still enough to start to get close. Some cut and thrust with some back-markers favoured first one, then the other and the result looked as if it would be decided by the twiddly third sector in which neither Mercedes had excelled all weekend. Bottas hung on to win by a small margin, a very popular win right across the paddock.

It was Bottas' 81st race and his maiden victory in F1 and even Vettel described Bottas as the driver of the day. But of course he'd rather that, given the relative points positions, that if a Mercedes is going to finish in front of him, it would be Bottas not Hamilton.

All the top three were exhausted as they went into the cool-down room. Kimi sat in an armchair, trying to hid behind a large pot plant. Vettel and Bottas were almost non-responsive when anyone spoke to them for the first minute or so.

The race was clearly gruelling and the last five laps or so were a titanic battle. But only for those two: everyone else seemed to be having a Sunday afternoon drive, with their own piece of track and no one to disturb them. Everyone that is except Alonso whose car played up on the dummy grid, crawled around the formation lap then died in the pit-lane entrance. Alonso, again, walked back to his pit this time having managed a DNS instead of the worryingly common DNF. One has to wonder how he keep any motivation at all.

Indeed, the only person who sounded disturbed was Bottas when he emulated Kimi's 2014 radio message "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing." Bottas, rather more politely, told his pit to stop talking to him because he knew what the tyres were doing and wanted to concentrate.

But as Eddie Jordan bounced onto the podium shouting "what a great race" millions around the world will have been wondering if he was on the same planet as the rest of us who had been watching 50 laps of boredom between the first three corners and the last five laps, far from the Russian standard we had been hoping for.