Nico Rosberg claims his first victory at the Russian Grand Prix.
The Russian Grand Prix had been Hamilton’s stomping ground, but Rosberg breaks his dominance after a dominant race from the German. Another German though could not take his part in the storyline as Kvyat and Vettel came together for the second successive race.
With Hamilton starting the race from tenth following another engine failure, Rosberg was joined on the front row by Valtteri Bottas. The Finn, who has performed extremely well in the previous Russian Grand Prix’s, found himself promoted to the front row with Vettel hampered by a gearbox change penalty pushing him down to seventh.
But just three corners into the race, Vettel was in the wall.
Sebastian lined up on the grid alongside Kvyat, the man he slated heavily in China for causing his collision with Raikkonen. But by the time he arrived at the first heavy braking zone, he was looking down the inside of Ricciardo with Kvyat behind.
A slight front right lock up from Kvyat though sent his Red Bull into the back of the Ferrari, pushing Vettel into Ricciardo and leaving the German with a puncture. Worse for Vettel though was a second piece of contact from Kvyat moments later through turn three, which saw Sebastian spin into the wall and show clear frustration over the team radio.
Vettel: “Somebody hit me in the f***** rear. Then somebody hit me in the f****** rear again. What the f*** are we doing here?”
With debris across the track and a car in the wall, the safety car came out to neutralise the race. A race now without Hulkenberg and Haryanto as the pair made the journey back to the paddock.
Come the restart, the race leader was off clear again as Bottas caught Raikkonen at turn one. In the first lap calamity, Kimi had got the place from his fellow Finn but now found himself hunted by Hamilton in third.
Lewis himself may not have had the best start to the race as he edged away from the grid. But the incidents further down the road allowed him to move up five places, and take Massa once the race was back underway.
On the other hand, the two red bulls were forced to pit under the safety car and found themselves at the back of the field with the medium tyres. The white-walled compound were not expected to be used in the race under normal circumstances, but the early stops allowed Red Bull to attempt something different.
The less traction out of corners the mediums awarded however restricted Kvyat’s exits as he scrapped with Ericsson. A long move around the outside of turn three and the following corners from Daniil came in vain though, as he was forced to serve a 10-second stop/go penalty for the earlier incident with Vettel.
Out in front meanwhile, Rosberg was pulling away with ease as Bottas, Raikkonen and Hamilton followed each other for second place. Although Lewis was soon able to overtake Raikkonen for third, as Kimi looked at a move on Bottas which opened the door to the Mercedes.
Like Raikkonen, Hamilton was not able to follow Bottas and make a move to take second from him. And a slightly slower pit stop saw Lewis saw him come out in touching distance of the Finn’s gearbox.
The next lap however saw Hamilton take Bottas under braking for turn 2. But he was not able to pull away as he would have liked, with Fernando Alonso the next man ahead having not pitted. DRS into turn 13 though gave Lewis an easy move, as Bottas started to claw back ground to Hamilton having ran wide earlier on at turn three.
Bottas too was caught behind Alonso before the Spaniard entered the pits. But the time lost by the Williams allowed Raikkonen to regain a podium slot when he reemerged from the pitlane.
As Lewis now hunted Rosberg and the lead he established, a great four car battle for eight place kicked off. With Daniel Ricciardo sending his Red Bull around the outside of Magnussen at turn three, but K-Mag would not yield and darted down the inside at four.
A slow exit from the Renault and Red Bull opened the door to Grosjean to sweep in and snatch ninth from Ricciardo. Eight was there for the taking as well but for a slide across the track from Magnussen to guard the inside line. This time though a slow exit would not open the door for another position for Grosjean as he lit up the rear tyres. Tyres too were the bane of Ricciardo as he pitted for the second time.
Ricciardo’s change onto soft tyres promoted Red Bull’s young driver, Carlos Sainz, into the points. But a 10th place finish would not even have seen Carlos bring a point home having been handed a 1o-second time penalty for forcing Palmer off the track earlier in the race.
Back at the front, Hamilton had managed to halve the gap to Rosberg as the pair began to lap the back of the field. But after bringing the gap down to eight seconds, Lewis hit another issue with a water pressure problem.
As a result Lewis was forced to back off and instantly lost a second to Rosberg – who responded by setting a new race lap record as he edged under a 100-second lap. By the time the situation stabilised, the advantage Hamilton had taken away from Rosberg returned to 13 seconds.
On the bright side, Hamilton was still in the race and would not fall a further 25-points back from Rosberg in the championship. He was though now being hunted by Raikkonen as the end of the race approached.
With the end of the race approaching, the fight for the final points extended to a five car battle for seventh. With Magnussen leading Grosjean, Perez, Sainz and Button.
Although 11th would have seen Jenson take the point away from Sainz with his penalty, a chance to take the point outright presented itself as Carlos locked up at turn 16 – opening the door to Button.
Once Jenson moved ahead under braking, the point was his as McLaren claimed their first double points finish since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
The double points finish from Alonso in sixth and Button in tenth sees both men score their first points of the season, as Renault brake their deadlock too with their first of the year.
At the front though, the man who took pole and set the fastest lap of the race claimed the grand slam in Russia having led every lap of the race. The 25-points he claims extends his lead over Hamilton by a further seven as he claims his seventh successive victory. That victory coming on a day where Ferrari score their 700th Formula One podium.
|6||Fernando Alonso||1 lap||52|
|7||Kevin Magnussen||1 lap||52|
|8||Romain Grosjean||1 lap||52|
|9||Sergio Perez||1 lap||52|
|10||Jenson Button||1 lap||52|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||1 lap||52|
|12||Carlos Sainz Jr.||1 lap||52|
|13||Jolyon Palmer||1 lap||52|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||1 lap||52|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||1 lap||52|
|16||Felipe Nasr||1 lap||52|
|17||Esteban Gutierrez||1 lap||52|
|18||Pascal Wehrlein||2 laps||51|