Hamilton wins in Russia as Rosberg retires

Lewis Hamilton cruised to a dominant victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, capitalising on his team-mates early retirement to extend his Championship lead and effectively shut down any potential designs Rosberg may have had on the Championship.

Rosberg had grabbed pole during Qualifying by an impressive three-tenths over Hamilton, having also lead the three practice sessions. In contrast to his embarrassing show at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago when Hamilton robbed him of the lead into the first corner, Rosberg successfully maintained the lead through the first lap. Although Hamilton was looking somewhat dangerous in the German’s mirrors, any threat was neutralised when Nico Hulkenberg spun off at the second corner and collected the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, throwing debris everywhere and prompting the Safety Car. While the two aforementioned racers clambered for their cockpit, Max Verstappen hobbled back to the pits with a rear right puncture.

With the track cleared the Safety Car pitted and Rosberg led Hamilton across the line. Bottas made a nice move on Raikkonen to reclaim the third place the Finn had taken from him on the first lap, while Hamilton couldn’t pass the Mercedes in front of him. He would not be stuck for long, however, as Rosberg came on the radio to report his throttle was getting stuck open. Losing control of his car through most corners, it was easy for Hamilton to slip past him – as did the rest of the points scoring drivers – before Rosberg crawled into the pits. The team assembled around his car and decided they could do nothing to recover Rosberg’s car and retired him from the race.

While Hamilton settled into the lead, Carlos Sainz – who 24 hours beforehand had been in a hospital bed following his big FP3 shunt – was making progress and passed Button easily to promote himself to eleventh. The next man to attempt to pass Button was Romain Grosjean, whose attempt resulted in him losing control in the slipstream, get onto the marbles on the fringe of the track which curves left and clout the barriers at a mighty rate of knots. His car spun several times out of the barriers and caused big superficial damage to the bodywork – but luckily the driver was completely okay. Nonetheless, a second Safety Car was needed to clear the debris – and some gaffer tape to repair the barrier!

Some drivers took the opportunity to pit for new tyres – but none of the top 8 drivers took this option. Hamilton complained off his tyres going too cold behind the Safety Car but had relatively little hassle from Bottas on the restart. As he stormed into the lead, the Ferraris were battling for P3. Vettel made a move on his team-mate into T2 which left Raikkonen cutting across the run-off area to avoid contact, and retaining his position. He moved aside later in the lap though to allow Vettel up to third, as Kimi had illegally kept the position.

Bottas was provisionally second but once he took his pitstop, he came out in eighth. When Vettel pitted two laps later he had successfully jumped the Finn and moved up to second, while Raikkonen emerged just behind the Williams. The two Finns began scrapping for position – a story which would last for the end of the race and end badly for both men. While Perez had held third place for a large chunk of the race, Bottas was hunting him down. It took him several laps to pass the Mexican but he finally wiggled his way up to the rear wing of the Force India and pulled an impressive overtake on Perez. Raikkonen followed the Williams through and demoted Perez to fifth as the Ferrari driver now targeted the Williams in his sights. With one lap left Raikkonen was closing but he pulled an extremely optimistic and amateurish dive on the inside of Bottas which sent Bottas spinning into the barriers and damaging Raikkonen’s car. While an ecstatic Perez drove through the collision and back into third, Bottas got on the radio to ask “what the f*ck” Raikkonen was doing.

Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz also retired just before the checkered flag. Ricciardo appears to have lost his brakes and pulled safely over, while Sainz also lost his brakes but spun backwards into the barriers – ironically at the same place as his shunt on Saturday – which damaged his car and ultimately proved terminal to his race. A fairly large fragment of his front wing was on the racing line after the incident which a brave marshal chose to clear – but this left him ducking out of the way of Vettel’s Ferrari as the German came around the corner and narrowly missed the volunteer.

Up front there were no real issues for Hamilton as he breezed across the line to secure his 42nd victory. Vettel crossed the line second while Perez gratefully accepted third place. Massa took fourth while Raikkonen finished fifth but will likely be moved down the order when a penalty is applied for his contact with Bottas. Kvyat, Nasr and Maldonado finished sixth, seventh and eighth while the two McLaren drivers secured points with ninth and tenth for Button and Alonso respectively. Verstappen was the first man outside the points while Bottas was classified as twelfth. Merhi and Stevens brought both Manor cars home for thirteenth and fourteenth, the last of the finishing drivers.

Provisional Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Sebastian Vettel
  3. Sergio Perez
  4. Felipe Massa
  5. Kimi Raikkonen
  6. Daniil Kvyat
  7. Felipe Nasr
  8. Pastor Maldonado
  9. Jenson Button
  10. Fernando Alonso
  11. Pastor Maldonado
  12. Valtteri Bottas
  13. Roberto Merhi
  14. Will Stevens
  • Daniel Ricciardo
  • Carlos Sainz
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Nico Rosberg
  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team

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