Mercedes' plan to hold back Max Verstappen at the start of the Russian Grand Prix backfired after the Red Bull Racing driver made light work of Valtteri Bottas. The Dutch racer started the race at the back of the grid, and with the Finn starting just a row ahead, he was expected to slow Verstappen's charge up the grid.

The Red Bull driver eventually finished the race just behind race winner Lewis Hamilton, who started the race in fourth place. Verstappen minimised the damage in the title race and goes into the race in Turkey just two points shy of the British seven-time world champion.

Bottas has now come in for criticism from fans and former F1 drivers for allowing Verstappen to pass him without a fight. Damon Hill suggested that the Red Bull driver was simply waved on and allowed to make his way up the field, which eventually allowed him to climb to second after the sudden downpour with just over five laps remaining.

"You can't get away from the fact that the guy who came second started the race behind him [Bottas] and his team-mate won the race," Hill said, as quoted by the Daily Express.

"Valtteri, in the race, we were expecting him to put up a little bit of a defence to fight the Mercedes corner against the Red Bull team and Verstappen, but he seemed to just wave him through."

"Maybe he just didn't want any trouble. It doesn't look like he is racing. It was almost like a gift to Max," the former F1 world champion added.

However, not everyone bought the story about Bottas having an engine issue which forced him to start at the back of the grid. WTF1's Tom Bellingham believes Mercedes opted to start the Finn at the back of the grid to hold Verstappen's progress, but feels it would have been more beneficial if they allowed Bottas to start higher up.

"Mercedes really could have done with Bottas between Hamilton and Verstappen at this stage of the race. If only Valtteri had qualified in 7th or something," Bellingham said sarcastically.

Max Verstappen
Red Bull's Max Verstappen was a winner in Austria last year William WEST/AFP