Hamilton extends championship lead with Sochi win

Hamilton wins in Sochi to hand Mercedes Constructors’ titleBriton extends championship lead as Rosberg is forced to fight back to second after first-lap error. Bottas third for

Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural Russian Grand Prix with a dominant lights to flag drive at the Sochi Autodrom as Nico Rosberg was forced to fight his way back to second from the rear of the field when a first-lap overtaking move on the Briton went wrong. Valtteri Bottas took the final podium place for Williams.

Hamilton’s ninth win of the season leaves him 17 points ahead of Rosberg in the battle for the Drivers’ Championship. The one-two finish of Hamilton and Rosberg handed the Constructors’ Championship title to Mercedes with three races in hand.

When the lights went out at the start, Rosberg attempted to overtake pole position man Hamilton into Turn Two. However, the German carried too much speed into the corner, locked up badly and went wide. It meant he had to hand the lead back to his team-mate. He quickly informed the team that the error had led to him flat-spotting his tyres and he would need a change.

He pitted at the end of lap one, took on medium tyres and asked what his strategy would be. He was told that he would need to do the remaining 52 laps on his new set. At the back Felipe Massa, who had started on new medium tyres, also pitted, taking on a set of soft tyres.

Behind Hamilton, Bottas now slotted into second, with Jenson Button third. Home hero Daniil Kvyat made a poor getaway from fifth on the grid, however, and fell back to ninth. Fernando Alonso made a good start and was fourth at the end of lap one after starting seventh. Kvyat’s team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne also got a decent getaway and he was soon up to fifth place behind the Ferrari driver.

The Frenchman quickly came under pressure from McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, who had risen from P11 on the grid, as well as the chasing Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel, who had climbed from 10th at the start, and Daniel Ricciardo, who had dropped back when the lights went out but who had made his way back towards his starting position of seventh.

At the front, Hamilton was pulling away. By lap eight he was 2.9s ahead of Bottas, with Button a further 9.2s back. The big battle at this point was between the two Red Bulls. Magnussen passed Vergne for P5 on lap four and the Toro Rosso driver was quickly passed by both Red Bulls. The battle for P6 was on and Ricciardo told his engineers he was losing time behind team-mate Vettel. The team didn’t ask Vettel to move across, however, and Ricciardo, beginning to struggle on worn soft tyres, started to fall back into the clutches of Vergne who was now eighth. Red Bull chose to pit Ricciardo and he took on new mediums, which he would race to the flag. The strategy choice didn’t initially seem to help as he became lodged in 16th place.

Rosberg, meanwhile, was up to 12th place by lap 14, with Felipe Massa 13th. The German then passed Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and set his sights on a points finish, if he could nurse his medium tyres to the end.

At the front, Hamilton was cruising and by lap 24 he had built up a 14-second advantage over Bottas, who was losing large chunks of time on his starting used soft tyres, which now had 30 laps on them.

Alonso, on similarly aged rubber, pitted on lap 25 but a messy stop involving a front jack problem cost the Spaniard time and and he emereged in ninth place.

Bottas came in on lap 26 for mediums, as did Magnussen. Hamilton then pitted from the lead on lap 27 and resumed in the lead. That left Vettel, in P2, as the last of the front runners out on starting tyres. Bottas was now third ahead of Rosberg, who had moved through the field as the pit stops occurred. The German had reported degradation on his rear tyres, however, and the question mark over his ability to nurse his medium tyres to the finish remained.

The immediate answer was that he seemed to be suffering few issues. On lap 31 he closed on Bottas and muscled his way past the Finn through turn two, though Bottas’ engineer quickly informed the Williams driver that Rosberg would surely get degradation later in the race and that the Finn would get a chance to retake the position.

While Rosberg was claiming P2, Vettel finally pitted and when he emerged the saw Hamilton in the lead, 19 seconds ahead of Rosberg, with Bottas 2.5s adrift of the German. Button was now fourth ahead of team-mate Magnussen, while Alonso’s slow stop had dropped him back to sixth. Ricciardo was now seventh ahead of Vettel, with Esteban Gutierrez in ninth for Sauber, though the Mexican had yet to make a pit stop. Kimi Raikkonen was in the final points-scoring position ahead of Vergne and Kvyat.

With 20 laps to go Rosberg began to suddenly up his pace. He set a fastest race lap of 1:42.551 and then improved again on the next lap by just over a tenth. Bottas’ engineer reacted by informing his driver that the team believed Rosberg was preparing for a second stop.

Rosberg, though, had other ideas and on lap 40, when asked by his team if he could get to the end on his mediums tyres he replied: “Easy. Well, not easy, but they feel good at the moment.”

And as the laps counted down they continued to work well. As Hamilton managed the race at the front, Rosberg’s pace remained consistent. Bottas pushed hard and a fastest lap of the race on lap 50 narrowed the gap to 4.3s. However, Rosberg had enough in the tank to respond and on the following tour the German responded by clawing back five tenths to ensure that Mercedes’ one-two finish was secure.

The result handed Mercedes the Constructors’ Championship title with three races left in the season. The team now has 565 points and with just 172 points available from the final three events, second-placed Red Bull Racing, on 342 points, cannot overhaul the Brackley-based squad.

“Unbelievable! I’m really happy for the team,” said Mercedes director Niki Lauda of the achievement. “Can I call myself a four-time champion now? Lewis is kind of looking unstoppable for the championship now. Kind of.”

With Bottas third, fourth place went to Button, with Magnussen fifth. Alonso finished sixth for Ferrari, with the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel seventh and eighth respectively. Raikkonen finished ninth in the second Ferrari and the final point went to Force India’s Sergio Perez.

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h31m50.744s 2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 3. Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 4. Jenson Button McLaren/Mercedes 5. Kevin Magnussen McLaren/Mercedes 6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 7. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 8. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull/Renault 9. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 11 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso/Renault 14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber/Ferrari 16 Adrian Sutil Sauber/Ferrari 17 Romain Grosjean Lotus/Renault 18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Renault 19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham/Renault

DNFKamui Kobayashi Caterham/Renault Max Chilton Marussia/Ferrari

Drivers' championship points

1. Lewis Hamilton 2912. Nico Rosberg 2743. Daniel Ricciardo 1994. Valtteri Bottas 1455. Sebastian Vettel 1436. Fernando Alonso 1417. Jenson Button 948. Nico Hulkenberg 769. Felipe Massa 7110 Kevin Magnussen 4911 Sergio Perez 4712 Kimi Raikkonen 4713 Jean-Eric Vergne 2114 Romain Grosjean 815 Daniil Kvyat 816 Jules Bianchi 217 Adrian Sutil 018 Marcus Ericsson 019 Pastor Maldonado 020 Esteban Gutierrez 021 Max Chilton 022 Kamui Kobayashi 0

Constructors' championship points

1. Mercedes 5652. Red Bull/Renault 3423. Williams/Mercedes 2164. Ferrari 1885. McLaren/Mercedes 1436. Force India/Mercedes 1237. Toro Rosso/Renault 298. Lotus/Renault 89. Marussia/Ferrari 210 Sauber/Ferrari 011 Caterham/Renault 0

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