Russian GP: Hamilton in touching distance of title, as Rosberg retires

Russian GP: Hamilton in touching distance of title, as Rosberg retires

Lewis Hamilton took a huge step closer to a second world title in a row with victory in the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi, as rival Nico Rosberg was forced out early on.

Mercedes sealed the manufacturers' championship in Russia, with Hamilton now just two points away from winning his own title after winning at Sochi for the second year running.

Rosberg, who led early on, suffered a throttle pedal issue that forced him out.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel finished 5.9s behind Hamilton, with Sergio Perez producing an epic tyre-saving performance to finish third, but only after Finns Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas collided on the final lap.

Raikkonen was given a 30s penalty, which dropped him from fifth to eighth.

Story of the race

From pole position Rosberg got a great start to lead Hamilton and Bottas through Turn 1, with the fast-starting Kimi Raikkonen passing the Williams for third at Turn 2. Hamilton challenged Rosberg around the outside there, but Rosberg held on.

A safety car was required almost immediately as sixth-placed starter Nico Hulkenberg spun, Max Verstappen clipped him and Marcus Ericsson's Sauber collected him properly and flew up into the air.

Hamilton, who ran wide at Turn 3 on the opening lap, almost hit the back of Rosberg as the safety car was called, with Raikkonen having to slew sideways to avoid him.

Verstappen crawled back to the pits with a left-rear puncture and changed his nose section, while Lotus's Romain Grosjean pitted for a lengthy front-wing angle change.

The race restarted on lap three with Rosberg leading Hamilton, Raikkonen, Bottas, Vettel and Force India's Sergio Perez. Jenson Button was the big mover early on, dragging his McLaren into the top 10 – but he would steadily sink backwards from there.

Bottas got a great tow and slingshotted past Raikkonen for third before Turn 2, as Rosberg pulled a 1s lead over Hamilton by lap 5, despite reporting a sticking throttle pedal, which he was told to cure by using the brake pedal.

Hamilton passed Rosberg after he clumped the kerb at Turn 2 on lap six, running wide again later in the lap to allow Bottas up to second. Rosberg then toured into the pits with his chronic throttle damper issue.

Vettel attacked Raikkonen for fourth into Turn 2, but Raikkonen defended his position stoutly, with another intra-team battle going on for seventh between local hero Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo in their Red Bulls.

Hamilton extended a 3s lead by lap 10 over Bottas, with Raikkonen holding Vettel at bay in third. Perez was a solid fifth, ahead of the duelling Kvyat and Ricciardo.

Sauber's Felipe Nasr had near-namesake Felipe Massa of Williams attacking him for eighth as he recovered from his disastrous qualifying.

Second safety car

The race was neutralised again after Grosjean suffered a huge high-speed accident at Turn 3, the right side of his car virtually destroyed as he slid into the barriers.

The race went green on lap 15, with Bottas almost hitting Hamilton before the restart. Vettel and Raikkonen almost collided at Turn 2, with the Finn being forced to take to the run-off.

Vettel made the move stick a couple of corners later, with Raikkonen complaining: "I have no speed in a straightline, he just drove past me".

Ricciardo had lost places having pitted under the safety car, and then had to battle hard to pass the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz (who got a time penalty for crossing the white line at the pit exit) to get back into the top 10.

Perez also stopped, dropping him to eighth as he would go the majority of the race distance on the soft-compound tyres.

Hamilton extended an immediate 2s lead over Bottas which became 10s by lap 25.

Bottas was struggling badly for grip at this point, with Vettel catching him quickly, so he pitted for fresh softs. Vettel was 12.6s behind Hamilton at this point, which was over 15s when Vettel pitted on lap 30.

Bottas had rejoined in traffic, however, having to battle his way past Sainz. Vettel was turned around in just 2.2s, and he rejoined well ahead of Bottas in the net runner-up spot. Raikkonen pitted a lap later, and rejoined right on Bottas's tail.

Vettel had to pass Perez, who'd had a 'free' pitstop under the safety car.

Hamilton pitted on lap 32 and rejoined 13.3s clear of Vettel. Perez ran third ahead of Ricciardo, another 'free' pitstopper. Behind them, Bottas and Raikkonen banged wheels after Bottas made a mistake trying to pass Ricciardo.

As Hamilton and Vettel exchanged fastest laps, albeit 12s apart, the real battle was for third between tyre-savers Perez and Ricciardo, and flat-out chargers Bottas and Raikkonen.

Bottas got DRS on Ricciardo on lap 44, and passed him with ease a lap later on the run to Turn 2. Raikkonen passed Ricciardo at Turn 2 with seven laps to go, but outbraked himself and had to give the place back again.

Raikkonen got the job done properly on lap 48, passing Ricciardo using DRS at Turn 2. Ricciardo was forced out with four laps remaining with a suspected suspension failure.

Bottas got DRS on Perez at the same time, but struggled to match the Force India on straightline speed. Raikkonen caught up with the duo on the penultimate lap, making it a three-way duel to the finish.

Bottas made a great lunge past Perez for third at Turn 13, with Raikkonen also slicing past. On the final lap, Raikkonen smashed into Bottas, taking him out of the race. "What the [beep] did he do?" complained Bottas.

Raikkonen toured to the finish in fifth in a shower of sparks, as Massa was promoted to fourth from 15th on the grid. Perez, after an epic tyre-saving drive, took the bottom step of the podium, behind only Hamilton and Vettel.

"Wow, that was very hard guys, I had no tyres left at all," said Perez.

Further back, Massa had got part Kvyat for eighth. Sainz spun out of seventh due to a front-left brake disc failure at Turn 10, promoting Massa further. Sainz spun again later on, and toured back to the pits, dropped his left-rear wing endplate on the track.

Vettel had to take evasive action for a marshal retrieving the debris: "We've got a very brave Russian running across the track," he said.

Hamilton had a late scare when his rear wing began to lose performance, probably from debris collecting in the slot gap. He was instructed not to use DRS in the closing stages, but rattled off the laps – despite Vettel closing in at the end to 5.9s – for his ninth win of the season.

1 Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes 1:37:11.024
2 Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari +5.953
3 Sergio Perez  Force India +28.918
4 Felipe Massa  Williams +38.831
5 Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari +42.358
6 Daniil Kvyat  Red Bull Racing +47.566
7 Felipe Nasr  Sauber +56.508
8 Pastor Maldonado  Team Lotus +1:01.088
9 Jenson Button  McLaren +1:19.467
10 Fernando Alonso  McLaren +1:26.210
11 Max Verstappen  Toro Rosso +1:28.424
12 Valtteri Bottas  Williams +1 lap
13 Roberto Merhi  Manor +1 lap
14 Will Stevens  Manor +2 laps
15 Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull Racing +6 laps
R Carlos Sainz Jr.  Toro Rosso Brakes
R Romain Grosjean  Team Lotus Spun off
R Nico Rosberg  Mercedes Throttle
R Nico Hulkenberg  Force India Collision
R Marcus Ericsson  Sauber Collision
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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Russian GP
Track Sochi Autodrom
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Lewis Hamilton , Sebastian Vettel , Sergio Perez , Daniel Ricciardo , Valtteri Bottas
Article type Race report