Lewis Hamilton was gift-wrapped an unlikely victory at the Russian Grand Prix after Ferrari blew their chances with a mid-race meltdown.
The Brit profited from Vettel’s retirement, which saw the German’s team-mate Charles Leclerc drop from first to third, to tighten his grip on a sixth world title.
On a day to forget for those dressed in red, Valtteri Bottas followed his partner home for a shock Mercedes one-two as a frustrated Leclerc completed the podium.
Before Vettel’s retirement, Ferrari got themselves in a right mess with the four-time world champion disobeying team orders to hand the lead back to Leclerc.
Leclerc finally benefited from “Plan C” to regain his lead, but then Vettel’s Ferrari engine blew up and the Virtual Safety Car played into Hamilton’s hands.
The British driver now leads Bottas in the championship by 73 points with just 130 remaining.
He isn’t getting carried away, though, and said: “Honestly I try not to think too much about the championship – it’s one race at a time.
“Collectively that’s what were working on it’s getting harder and harder as the season goes on – one foot in front of the other and we have to keep putting performances like this in.
“It feels like a long time coming and it feels like the first time as well.”
He has Ferrari to thank after their strategy mix-up, seven days after Vettel profited from his team’s tactics in Singapore.
Last week the German jumped a furious Leclerc in the only round of pit stops to win for the first time since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix in August.
And there was more drama on Sunday. Seemingly it had been agreed that if Vettel benefited from the slipstream and moved ahead of Leclerc off the start line, he would have to concede the position.
Ferrari were on the radio to tell Vettel to let Leclerc by, but their driver refused and insisted: “I would have passed him anyway.”
There was a series of awkward exchanges on the radio before Leclerc became the first to stop on lap 22.
Four laps later Vettel came in, and by the time he emerged he had fallen behind his team-mate and into a net second.
“I will always trust the team but yeah the tactic was me giving the slipstream to be one-two at the end of the straight which happened, “said Leclerc.
“But I don’t know… I need to speak with the team to know better the information.”
On lap 28, their misery was compounded when Vettel broke down, allowing Hamilton, who had yet to pit, a free stop for tyres and the lead of the race.
“Bring back the f****** V12s,” yelled Vettel with Ferrari blaming his retirement on the hybrid technology.
Hamilton had no complaints, though.
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