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Verstappen carves through field as Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix

By Cameron Kirby, 30 Sep 2018 Motorsport

Verstappen carves through field as Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix

Team orders from Mercedes-AMG brings Lewis Hamilton one step closer to his fifth championship

LEWIS HAMILTON has one hand on his fifth F1 drivers’ world championship following victory in the Russian Grand Prix, but it was the youngster Max Verstappen who was the real star of the race.

The Dutchman enjoyed his 21st birthday by starting from 19th on the grid following engine penalties, before carving his way through the field in thrilling fashion to end up in fifth by the end of the eighth lap.

The Red Bull driver inherited the lead of the race on lap 19 once the Ferrari and Mercedes duos ahead of him pitted for tyres, and remained there until there were just 10 laps remaining.

Once Verstappen finally pitted, he re-joined again in fifth position, ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who had suffered from a damaged wing after also starting near the rear of the grid.

Ricciardo ran a lonely race, taking a more subdued path through the field, but taking his damaged aerodynamics into account still impressed.

But it was Hamilton who took home the winner's trophy following a controversial decision by the Mercedes squad to implement team orders and solidify the British driver's championship lead.

With five races left in the 2018 season, Hamilton sits 50-points clear of his only remaining rival, Sebastian Vettel.

Read next: Hamilton scores stunning win in 2017 Singapore Grand Prix; Ricciardo second

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas started the race from pole position, and was leading early on from the points’ leader, before team orders came into play and he finished second.

Vettel finished the race in third position, but didn’t make life easy for Mercedes. During the pit stops Ferrari was able to undercut the then second-place Hamilton to put Vettel in between the Silver Arrows.

It was short-lived, with the defending champion using DRS to his advantage to power past the Ferrari driver and back into second place.

However, with Hamilton in the hunt for the championship, Mercedes-AMG used team orders to swap their drivers, elevating the Briton into a race-winning position.

Following the race both Hamilton and Bottas were subdued, with neither celebrating the one-two victory with vigour.

Read next: Three of Formula 1’s most spectacularly regrettable swaps

Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Ocon, and Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10.