Lewis Hamilton won today’s Russian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastien Vettel and Force India’s Sergio Perez, in what was an thrilling first part of the race that decided the ultimate outcome.
Polesitter Nico Rosberg retired with a throttle damper problem a quarter of the way through the race, which meant it was a straight cruise to victory for Hamilton. However Vettel and Perez had to employ strategic tactics in order to jump their nearest rival Valterri Bottas, after two Safety Car periods interrupted the race.
The first came on the opening lap when Nico Hulkenberg and Marcus Ericsson collided after the Force India driver spun on his own accord heading into turn two. That in turn collected Max Verstappen, who pitted for front wing and tyre damage the following lap. Romain Grosjean also pitted for suspected front wing damage, which lost him time.
When we restarted Rosberg pulled away from Hamilton by lighting up the timing screens before detecting his problem, which eventually led him to conceive the position and tumble down the order. Mercedes tried to rescue the problem, however it turned out to be terminal for the title contender.
At that point the camera’s suddenly turned to a pretty dire looking Lotus of Romain Grosjean, who went straight into the barriers on his recovery drive when trailing Jenson Button through the long turn three. That brought out the Safety Car again, and prompted a number of teams to pit their drivers including Force India with Perez and Red Bull with Ricciardo.
That worked out good for them, as they emerged in defecto 3rd and 4th positions respectively when the leaders eventually pitted with 20 laps to go. One of the key drivers in that was Valterri Bottas, who was latched onto the back of Ricciardo in the closing stages along with Kimi Raikkonen who pitted at about the same point as him. The pair made their way past with three laps left and set their sights on Perez, who was being told to nurse his conserve his tyres in order to finish fourth.
On the penultimate lap both made their move down at turn 10, before Raikkonen attempted to pass Bottas on the final lap, which led to the pair making contact and ultimately gifted the position back to Perez with half a lap left.
In the mean time Ricciardo retired with suspension problems, whilst Carlos Sainz – who managed to get into the points after not participating in Qualifying due to his Practice 3 crash – encountered brake issues which eventually led to his retirement five laps to the end.
Further back homebody Daniil Kvyat managed to finish sixth after starting outside the top ten and running on a similar strategy to the leaders by pitting later on after the Safety Car, after being released into clear air from Vettel and co. At one point he nearly led the race, but Hamilton was too far ahead for that to happen.
Nasr finished a commendable seventh, pitting just a lap before Kvyat to jump Maldonado who ran the Super Soft at the end of the race. Felipe Massa also did this and finished fourth after starting in 15th place, perhaps some salvation for Williams after nearly clinching a podium.
And finally Button and Verstappen round out the top ten, after Alonso received a 5 second time penalty for cutting turn 16 too many times after receiving a black and white flag.
With Raikkonen receiving his 30 second time penalty, it means Mercedes are able to clinch the 2015 Constructors World Championship and with his win today and Rosberg’s retirement, Hamilton stands a chance at taking the Drivers World Championship in the next round at Austin for the US Grand Prix.