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Auto racing: Valtteri Bottas gets his first Formula One victory

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland sprays champagne on his own face after winning the Formula One Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. (Sergei Grits / Associated Press)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland sprays champagne on his own face after winning the Formula One Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. (Sergei Grits / Associated Press)

Valtteri Bottas claimed his first Formula One win on Sunday after holding off a late charge from Sebastian Vettel at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

Bottas, a Mercedes driver who started third but slip-streamed into the lead off the start, finished 0.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Vettel. Kimi Raikkonen took third in the second Ferrari, 10.3 seconds further back.

“Took quite a while, more than 80 races,” said Bottas, who had his debut with Williams in 2013. “Worth the wait.”

The 27-year-old Finn joined Mercedes after last year’s champion, Nico Rosberg, announced his retirement.

Vettel, who had started on pole, hunted Bottas down in the latter part of the race. However, he was left fuming after his hopes of passing the Finn on the last lap were dashed by having to lap the Williams of Felipe Massa. “What was that?” Vettel asked over the team radio in frustration that Massa hadn’t moved out of his way swiftly enough, though the German was in conciliatory mood afterward.

“It doesn’t matter,” Vettel said of the incident with Massa. “This is the man of the race today, big congrats to Valtteri.”

Vettel’s second place meant the German extended his standings lead to 13 points over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who trailed in fourth after suffering overheating trouble. It was a lonely race for Hamilton, who had large gaps with Raikkonen ahead and Max Verstappen behind.

“Why is my car overheating? We’re out of the race now,” Hamilton told his team on lap 16. The British driver never came close to third-placed Raikkonen, and the gap stood at more than 25 seconds at the checkered flag.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin looking on, Red Bull driver Verstappen claimed fifth, ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Eighth went to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Massa and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz claiming the final points.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was the most notable retirement, parking his car on lap 6 after the right-rear brakes caught fire.

There was a safety-car stoppage after barely half a lap when Romain Grosjean’s Haas hit the Renault of Jolyon Palmer on the inside of a right-hand bend, putting both cars into the wall. Bottas held on to his lead comfortably at the restart in a race with few overtaking opportunities.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso is still yet to reach the checkered flag this season after his car broke down on the formation lap.

NHRA

Steve Torrence won the Top Fuel event Sunday in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

Torrence had a 3.783-second pass at 323.89 mph for the ninth victory of his career and first of the season. He beat points leader Leah Pritchett, eight-time season champion Tony Schumacher and Terry McMillen in the final round.

“This is the same as winning a race that you had to pedal it every round or you had to win it on hole-shots,” Torrence said. “This is a driver’s race. We race 24 races a year and one of them we race four-wide. It’s completely different when you come in here; you’re mentally challenged.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Chris McGaha in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps, the defending season champion, ran a 3.933 at 322.65 in a Dodge Charger for his first NHRA Four-Wide Nationals win, second consecutive victory this season and 52nd overall. Teammate, Jack Beckman was second, followed by J.R. Todd and Matt Hagan.

In Pro Stock, McGaha raced to his fifth career victory, running a 6.591 at 210.44 in a Chevrolet Camaro. He beat Greg Anderson, Shane Gray and Drew Skillman. Tonglet rode his Suzuki to a 6.864 at 195.00 for his 10th career victory and first of the season.


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