Lewis Hamilton moved closer to his third World Drivers Championship after taking victory at the Sochi Autodrom as Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team-mate Nico Rosberg was forced into an early retirement.
Rosberg had maintained the lead at the start having taken pole position, but a throttle issue saw him first lose the lead to Hamilton, and then pull into the pit line to retire, meaning there is now 73 points between the two drivers with just four races remaining and 100 points on offer.
Once Rosberg retired, Hamilton was in a race on his own, and was untroubled by the opposition despite suffering issues with his rear wing over the closing laps that prevented him from using his Drag Reduction System (DRS).
Sebastian Vettel moved into second position in the championship as he finished second, 5.953s behind Hamilton, with the Scuderia Ferrari driver having moved up the order from fifth on the opening lap, capitalising on Rosberg’s retirement and then getting ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen during the pit stop cycle.
Sergio Perez completed the podium for the Sahara Force India team after gambling on an early pit stop during a safety car period to clear up a crash for Romain Grosjean at turn three on lap twelve, with the Lotus F1 Team driver escaping injury from a violent looking incident.
Perez was passed by both Bottas and Raikkonen on the penultimate lap of the race at turn thirteen as the Mexican’s tyres were well past their best, but inherited the podium position once more when Ferrari’s Raikkonen made an optimistic move on Williams Martini Racing’s Bottas heading into turn four, with Bottas ending his race in the barriers and out of the points and Raikkonen falling to fifth behind the second Williams of Felipe Massa. Raikkonen is under investigation for the move, and could be in line to take a penalty.
Behind Raikkonen was Daniil Kvyat of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team, who secured sixth place in his home Grand Prix, while Felipe Nasr drove one of his strongest races of the season to take seventh for the Sauber F1 Team ahead of Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado.
Both McLaren-Honda drivers were able to score points, with Jenson Button ninth and Fernando Alonso tenth. Both drivers were promoted into the points following the late retirements of Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo (due to a suspected suspension failure) and Carlos Sainz Jr (with a braking issue), with all three drivers on course for points.
Max Verstappen could not finish inside the top ten for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, missing out by just 2.214s to Alonso, but was forced to take avoiding action on the opening lap after Nico Hulkenberg spun his Force India at turn two, with the German driver being forced to retire after being hit by the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, who was unable to avoid a collision and causing a first lap safety car.
Completing the field were the two Manor F1 Team drivers, with Roberto Merhi comfortably getting the better of team-mate Will Stevens on his return to the team after two races watching on the sidelines. The Spaniard beat the Briton to thirteenth on the road by over forty seconds at the end of the 53-lap race.
Hamilton’s ninth victory of 2015 sees him lead Vettel by 66 points in the championship, with Rosberg a further seven back in third.
Sochi Race Result
|3||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||+28.918s|
|6||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull-Renault||+47.566s|
|11||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1m28.424s|
|12||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Williams-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|13||98||Roberto Merhi||ESP||Manor-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|14||28||Will Stevens||GBR||Manor-Ferrari||+2 Laps|
|RET||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Renault||Retired|
|RET||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||Retired|
|RET||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||Retired|