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By the time Vladimir Putin arrived and the accompanying array of binoculars and rifles appeared on the roofs, it was lap 41. He’d missed the crucial moment of the race’s outcome.
That had happened 28 laps earlier as Mercedes caught itself in a knot, making it harder than it should have been to score a 1-2 over Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari that had struggled with the peculiar tyre demands of the Sochi track. The question of which Mercedes driver would take the victory ended up getting caught in that knot. The outcome of team order ambiguity was that Lewis Hamilton won from a sorely disappointed Valtteri Bottas who, after setting pole, had comfortably controlled the race right up until the decisive first stops.