Under clear blue skies in Russia, Nico Rosberg led from start to finish to maintain his 100% winning record in 2016, and his seventh Formula 1 victory in a row at the Sochi Autodrom.
The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS was untroubled all afternoon to secure his fourth win from four races this season, and extend his championship lead to forty-three points over team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Their was opening lap carnage that saw Sebastian Vettel retire his Ferrari with a damage after contact on two separate occasions with Daniil Kvyat, once at turn two and the second at turn three that saw the Red Bull Racing driver penalised with a ten-second stop and go penalty. It was Vettel’s second incident in as many races with Kvyat, after a first lap move by the Russian being slammed by the German two weeks ago in China.
As well as Kvyat, Esteban Gutierrez was also handed a penalty, albeit just a drive-through for the Haas F1 Team driver, following a first lap incident. The Mexican span around the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg at turn one, who retired from the Russian Grand Prix on the opening lap for a second consecutive year, while Rio Haryanto was also eliminated in the opening lap chaos.
The Virtual Safety Car was initially deployed, before officials decided the full Safety Car was needed, neutralising the race, with Rosberg leading ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Hamilton.
On the restart, Hamilton dispatched Massa quickly, with the Williams Martini Racing driver unable to stay with the four ahead of him. Hamilton closed down and passed Raikkonen, but was forced to wait until after the pit stops to make a pass on Bottas to take second.
Hamilton attempted to close the gap down to his team-mate, but was compromised in the closing stages after being informed by his team of a water pump issue, with the reigning World Champion being forced to settle for second, over twenty seconds adrift of Rosberg at the chequered flag.
Raikkonen jumped ahead of fellow Finn Bottas during his own solitary pit stop despite a minor stutter as he attempted to pull away from his pit to claim the final step on the podium and take Ferrari’s 700th podium finish in Formula 1.
After starting on the front row and running second in the opening laps, Bottas will be disappointed to end the race off the podium in fourth, and will be even more unhappy to finish more than fifty seconds adrift of race winner Rosberg.
Such was the pace of Rosberg, the only other driver on the lead lap at the end of the race was the second Williams of Massa, with seventh placed Fernando Alonso a lap behind for McLaren-Honda, the Spaniard’s first points of the season.
Another driver securing his first points of the season was Kevin Magnussen, who secured seventh after a strong drive for the Renault Sport F1 team, avoiding the early chaos to run in the points and sustaining his pace sufficiently to take the team’s first points of the year as well.
Romain Grosjean secured his Haas F1 Team’s third points finish in fourth races in eighth, holding off the challenge of Force India’s Sergio Perez for the last quarter of the race, while Jenson Button claimed the final point on offer in tenth in the second McLaren.
Button had passed Carlos Sainz Jr on track for that tenth position, but was on course to secure the point due to the Spaniard incurring a ten-second penalty for forcing Jolyon Palmer off the track during an overtaking manouerve.
The penalty did relegate the Toro Rosso driver behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, with the Australian being forced to fight back from a first lap visit to the pits with a damaged front wing, while Palmer could only finish thirteenth, the second Renault driver being unable to stay in touch with team-mate Magnussen despite running with the Dane inside the points in the opening laps of the race.
Marcus Ericsson finished ahead of the penalised Kvyat in fourteenth for Sauber, with his team-mate Felipe Nasr sixteenth, with only Gutierrez and the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein, who was delayed by a slow pit stop that cost him the opportunity of a better result, behind him at the chequered flag.
As well as the trio of opening lap casualties, Max Verstappen was also a retiree in Russia, with the Dutchman ending his race early with an engine problem while looking on course to secure points for Toro Rosso for a fourth consecutive weekend.
But all in all, no one was anywhere near Nico Rosberg, and the winning run of his life continues. Next stop is Spain; can he make it a great eight?
Russian Grand Prix Race Result
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