Lewis Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix in Sochi
Mercedes driver 17 points ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg, as team takes constructors’ title
Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes locks up approaching turn two next to team-mate and eventual winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
President Vladimir Putin, who arrived at the Sochi Autodrom built to ensure the sport came to his country after the 37th lap, looked on with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone as Hamilton coasted to victory.
The ninth one-two for Mercedes this season — one short of McLaren’s 1988 record - guaranteed the Brackley-based marque the constructors’ crown for the first time, one which had been anticipated for some time given their dominance throughout the course of this campaign.
As far as the drivers’ championship is concerned, Hamilton now has a 17-point lead over Rosberg, with 100 up for grabs from the final three races in the United States, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
After crossing the line Hamilton said over the radio: “Congratulations to the team on winning the constructors’ championship. Great job man! History in the making!”
In his message to the team Rosberg recognised he had messed up as he said: “Sorry guys, that was unnecessary, but thank you for the unbelievable car that I was able to recover from that.”
As for Hamilton, only Michael Schumacher, Sebastan Vettel and Nigel Mansell have won nine or more races in a single campign.
Hamilton has also now equalled Mansell’s British record of 31 race wins, and this was as easy as they come, all a far cry from the spectacle ahead of the race.
Appreciably, given this was Russia’ inauguration into F1, there was plenty of fanfare, with the organisers producing a grand opening ceremony along the pit straight.
It involved around 1,000 people and was part-street parade, part carnival, with not only the fans, but also numerous dignitaries, treated to a remarkable spectacle.
The colourful pageantry, however, became a more sombre affair just under 15 minutes from the start. As a mark of respect for the Russian national anthem, and with their colleague Jules Bianchi fighting for his life following his crash in Japan last week, the remaining drivers lined up at the head of the grid — along with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt — and it was very well observed.
When it came down to the return to action on track, with blue skies and bright sunshine overhead, compared to the grim, grey wet affair of a week ago, that naturally became black following Bianchi’s accident, the opening seconds set the tone.
From the 38th pole position of his career, Hamilton angled his car to the right to cover off Rosberg alongside him on the grid, and for the most part it worked perfectly.
Rosberg, however, found the slipstream, and on the longest run now in F1 down to the first braking zone, the German pulled out from behind Hamilton and grabbed the lead.
On the approach to the first turn, though, Rosberg outbraked himself, immediately flatspotting his tyres, forcing him to cut across the vast run-off area at that corner.
Almost instantly, given the advantage he had gained, Rosberg was told by his team to give the lead to Hamilton to which he replied: “I have to box because of vibrations.”
After switching from the soft to medium-compound Pirelli tyres, the 29-year-old - running 20th of the 21 drivers — then asked as to his strategy, to which he was remarkably told: “We think we need to go to the end on this set.”
It was a message Jenson Button scoffed at when he was informed as to Rosberg’s plan, which appeared to bear fruit when, after 22 laps, the latter declared he was “feeling a lot of degradation”.
At that stage Rosberg had forced his way up to ninth, 46 seconds off of Hamilton, who made his sole pit stop after 27 laps.
Four laps later, and with a move on Williams’ Valtteri Bottas through the first corner that resulted in the Finn taking evasive action, Rosberg was back up to second — courtesy of all but Vettel having pitted — and 20 seconds adrift of his team-mate.
Despite Button’s dismissal, Rosberg had few issues in making it home, 13.6secs down on Hamilton, with Bottas third and Button fourth, just as the top quartet had started the race.
It was Putin who then presented the race winner’s trophy to Hamilton, and the constructor’s one to Mercedes technical executive director Paddy Lowe.