Lewis Hamilton wins the Russian Grand Prix after Rosberg retired from the lead.
On a day where Mercedes needed just three points greater than Ferrari to claim back-to-back constructors’ championships, Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix. But with Ferrari coming home in second and fifth while Rosberg retired early on, the title celebrations will have to wait till the next round. Or will they as Raikkonen gets investigated by the race stewards after a final lap crash between himself and Bottas.
The weekend hadn’t got off to a strong start for anyone following a diesel spillage pushing the start of FP1 back by half an hour and making it a wet session, followed by heavy rain in FP2 making Friday’s running completely incomparable to qualifying and the race.
Luckily for the field, Saturday kicked off with dry running in the final practice session and gave the paddock a chance to gather their data for the race. Limited practice however caused Hamilton to be less prepared for quali, where Nico got the better of his team-mate to claim his second pole position in a row.
Luck and talent appeared to be sticking with Rosberg at the start of the race as he got a good and clean launch off the line. A slight move over to his right allowed Nico to cover Hamilton on the inside and without an overtake possible on the outside, he kept the lead at the place he almost claimed it a year ago.
As Rosberg kept on the outside of turn three for the inside line for four, the safety car was being deployed as a stricken Hulkenberg and Ericsson sat interlocked at the start of turn three.
Hulkenberg had run wide at turn two as the corner became cramped at the race start and the German ran over the exit kerb before spinning on the artificial grass that sits beside the track. Unfortunately as he span around, he was caught by two cars from the swamping pack.
Verstappen was the first to make contact with Hulkenberg as he avoided the Force India in most but the rear-left tapped the car and punctured the tyre. Ericsson on the other hand was caught by the Force India as it rolled slightly across the track and became locked side-by-side with Hulkenberg after bouncing up and braking the front suspension.
Right before the safety car was deployed, Raikkonen had got past Bottas through turn three for third place and was looking to attack the Mercedes’ of Hamilton before the yellow flags stopped the fight. On the restart however, Bottas regained P3 on the run down to the second corner as the Mercedes powered Williams rocketed by the Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz was also having a strong start to his race and had moved up to fourteenth place, despite starting the race on the back row following his FP3 crash that ruled him out of qualifying and forcing him to spend the night in hospital.
But while Sainz made his way through the back half of the grid, Rosberg’s luck appeared to be over as he reported his throttle peddle felt broken. Worried about if it gets stuck, the team advised him it would lift on break pressure but it was getting sticky and not fully lifting under braking.
This ended up costing Rosberg the lead and forcing him to soon retire as under braking he went wide into turn two and was slow to pick up speed on the exit, allowing Hamilton to swoop past. The sticking throttle had began to develop under the safety car on the opening lap
Hamilton had been fuel saving while behind Rosberg and under the safety car. But without Nico in front and back up to racing speed he was told he could put the throttle down after “doing too good a job” at saving fuel. Lewis would instantly claim the fastest lap of the race.
Maldonado was also pushing hard in his Lotus to catch and overtake Button, with the McLaren an easy meal as he ate away at the gap under DRS before walking by on inside of turn 13. Carlos Sainz soon overtook Jenson as well as he continued to close in on the points but while he did so, the other Lotus was causing a second safety car to come out.
Grosjean, like Maldonado, had been closing in on Button but the Frenchman soon to be leaving Lotus lost the rear of the car mid-turn three while in Button’s slipstream. As he corrected the oversteer, the car span on the marbles into the barrier with the rear-right tyre detaching on impact as the car continued to spin. Thankfully like Sainz, despite a high-G impact, Romain was given the medical all clear following a check that revealed no obvious injuries.
Following repair works to the turn three barrier, the racing was about to get back underway with the safety car pulling into the pits. But for Bottas, he was a bit keen to stick on Hamilton’s rear and almost rear-ended Lewis before the restart.
Luckily for him, they made no contact and he was able to stay in front of the Ferrari’s as Vettel took Raikkonen on the inside of turn two after slipstreaming the Finn down the longest straight on the F1 calendar. Kimi however took avoiding action with Seb on the inside and ran wide onto the run off and actually stayed in front of Vettel. But with gaining an advantage off the track, Kimi allowed Seb to take the position soon after while complaining about a lack of straight line speed.
Further back in the field, Ricciardo and Sainz were having a fight of their own for the final point scoring position. A fierce back and forth saw Ricciardo take the outside line of T3 and place his Red Bull on the marbles to take the inside of turn four as Sainz fought back but ran wide on the run to turn five to give Ricciardo the position. Behind the pair also came Verstappen after he caught up and overtook both McLaren’s with ease following his early pit stop.
One of the drivers yet to pit with two safety cars coming out was Valtteri Bottas as he and Williams were trying to stretch out the first stint. Yet Bottas was killing his tyres faster than the Ferrari as Vettel clawed closer to Bottas and moved within DRS range. Before an overtake was on however, Williams called Bottas into the pits after he had already lost 3 seconds to Vettel.
A handful of laps later, Vettel also came in for his first stop and had gained the position over Bottas with a faster stop and the Finn being stuck in traffic following his trip into the pits. One lap later Kimi also came into the pits and like his team-mate, had a faster stop time than the Williams but Bottas kept his lead despite trying to overtake Ricciardo and running wide.
Valtteri was able to keep on the track, just, and kept in front of Raikkonen, just, despite Kimi having good traction out of turn two while Bottas struggled to pull away. Raikkonen though had to lift off the throttle and jink to the left in order to avoid contact with the rear of Bottas, allowing Valtteri space to breathe in front.
Raikkonen kept the attack on however and later darted down the inside of turn four but Bottas was able to get better traction out of the corner and stayed in front while Hamilton meanwhile was out in front and setting new lap record for Russian Grand Prix.
That record only held for a few more laps however as Vettel stormed the Sochi Autodrom to brake the lap record while Raikkonen continued to follow Bottas for fifth place. But while Raikkonen trailed his fellow Finn, they were both following Ricciardo and Perez after both drivers gained massively after pitting under the second safety car. However Perez, a master at tyre management, was beginning to struggle with life in his front tyres.
Once Bottas was told to push and chase down Perez, he swiftly made an overtake stick on Ricciardo as his Merc powered Williams blitzed ahead of the Renault powered Red Bull down the pit straight.
Another two Renault powered cars were sitting in the points at this stage with Sainz in a pocket of space in seventh but with Massa and Kvyat closing in. Any fights for position however were taken away as Sainz span at turn 10 after his front left brake failed and pumped out a lot of brake dust. Soon after Sainz was again spinning down at turn 13 when the rear swapped ends with the front and brought Carlos’ race to an end.
Ricciardo was soon joining Sainz out of the race and leaving just the one Red Bull car in the points after a suspension issue appeared with the Aussies car, before he parked on inside of track at turn eight.
His former team-mate, Vettel, was on the attack meanwhile as Hamilton developed a rear-wing issue with three laps to go. With Hamilton slowing, Vettel was going faster than ever and posted another new fastest lap of the race as he attempted to catch Hamilton for the lead.
Vettel’s current team-mate Raikkonen was also pushing hard to catch Perez and Bottas for the final podium spot and also set a new fastest lap of the race, even if Vettel bettered it. But while Kimi closed in on Valtteri, Bottas was closing in on Perez and darted down the inside on turn 13 after leaving it late to slam on the brakes for the inside line.
As Perez struggled for traction out of turn 14, Raikkonen found his way around the outside of the Mexican as he slipped from third to fifth. But the action was not over yet and on the final lap as Bottas remained on full power with Raikkonen attacking the Williams until a bold and late move by Kimi into turn four saw Valtteri retire and Raikkonen come under the scrutiny of the stewards for causing a collision. This matter is yet to be resolved however.
Kimi managed to nurse the car over the line in fifth place with Perez and Massa nudging by on the final lap. Perez’s third place gives him his second ever podium finish for Force India after taking third place at the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, which Lewis Hamilton also won.
Today’s win at the Russian Grand Prix for Lewis Hamilton is also his 42nd in Formula One history, which matches Sebastian Vettel’s record, and the win moves him 73-points clear of Vettel in the 2015 Drivers Championship as Sebastian moves ahead of Rosberg himself.
Six drivers failing to finish the race and Bottas retiring on the final lap meant McLaren managed to score a double points finish with Button and Alonso claiming the final point scoring positions, just ahead of Verstappen despite the McLaren’s being easy picking on the straights throughout the race.
Update: Raikkonen handed 30-second time penalty for Bottas collision
Update: Alonso loses his point after 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits
|Position||Driver||Gap to leader||Points|
|8||Raikkonen (finished race 5th)||42.358 (+30s pen)||4|
|11||Alonso (finished race 10th)||86.21 (+5s pen)|