Russian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton closes in on world title after team orders hand him win over Sebastian Vettel

Valtteri Bottas led from pole but was ordered to let Hamilton through on the 25th lap

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It became clear from the moment that Valtteri Bottas qualified ahead of Lewis Hamilton on Saturday that Mercedes’ team orders would play a large part in the race.

Hamilton held off championship rival Sebastian Vettel after a tight battle following a strategic pit-stop by Ferrari, and was then given clearance by Mercedes to pass Bottas on lap 25 after establishing a lead over the German, taking the win away from his teammate.

The procession to the finish was made a little more complicated by a minor engine problem and a tyre blister on Hamilton’s car, but it was a nevertheless another important victory, and with a 50 point lead over Vettel, it meant that the British driver placed one hand on his fifth championship title.

Lewis Hamilton says his win doesn't feel ‘spectacular’

From pole, Bottas got a good start and almost hung Hamilton out to dry as he defended his position in the first two turns and invited Vettel to attack his teammate. The Ferrari edged in front of Hamilton, but the championship leader held his nerve and swatted him away.

Vettel went into the pits first and left Hamilton to run into the traffic at the tail of the pack, something which should have been decisive. The Mercedes pitted a lap later and came out behind Vettel, but Hamilton went ahead after some wheel-to-wheel action that saw the Ferrari driver reluctantly leave the inside free at risk of holding out after a double-move to defend on the third corner.

Max Verstappen started from the back row of the grid and was in seventh by the end of the first lap on his 21st birthday. He then led for a large part of the race as he held onto his tyres to target a quick finish and overtake Kimi Raikkonen for fourth. He eventually came into the pits on the 44th lap but was unable to increase his pace in the remaining eight laps as Raikkonen took fourth.

"It's a difficult day because Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and was a real gentleman told let me by. The team have done such an exceptional job to have a one two,” said Hamilton. "I would usually be elated but I understand what Valtteri did today and he deserved to win. It doesn't feel spectacular.

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