Nico Rosberg won his fourth race of 2016 in Russia, his seventh on the trot, to lead another Mercedes 1-2 at Sochi – but it was another race to forget for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton took his time to work his way up to second place from 10th on the grid following MGU-H problems in qualifying, but once he got ahead ofFerrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, Rosberg was already over 10s up the road.
He closed the gap to 7.7s, before Rosberg got the hammer down again as Hamilton suffered a water-pressure issue in the second half of the event and drifted well away from the leader, finishing 25s in arrears.
The race featured a controversial opening lap, as Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat hitFerrari’s Sebastian Vettel twice – at Turn 2 and Turn 3, the second impact sending the four-time world champion into the barrier. It spelled his second non-finish in four races.
Story of the race
From pole position, Rosberg led Bottas and Raikkonen through the Turn 1 sweeper. Raikkonen grabbed second at Turn 2, but it all kicked off behind him as an out-of-control Kvyat hit Vettel into the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Behind them, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg went out at Turn 2 for the second time in succession at Sochi after being rear-ended by Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas. In the chaos that ensued, teammate Sergio Perez suffered a right-rear puncture.
Moments later, Vettel was hit by Kvyat again, spinning and then crashing out at Turn 3, causing a safety car.
Vettel ranted on the radio: “Somebody hit me in the f**king rear in Turn 2, then someone hit me in the f**king rear again in Turn 3. F**ksake, what are we doing here?”
Kvyat pitted for new nose, as did Ricciardo – who opted for the medium-compound tyre. Later, Kvyat was given a 10s stop/go penalty for his misdemeanours, as was Gutierrez.
At the restart on lap four, Rosberg led with ease as Bottas repassed Raikkonen for second at Turn 2, and Hamilton passed Massa for fourth behind them. Verstappen now attacked Massa, with Alonso tracking his every move.
Hamilton outbraked Raikkonen after Kimi failed to pass Bottas at the start of lap seven, and quickly hunted down Bottas but was unable to get past him – allowing Rosberg to build a big advantage of over 10s by lap 15.
Bottas pitted for softs on lap 16, releasing Hamilton for a lap before he pitted. Hamilton’s stop was 0.5s slower, but still came out side by side with Bottas, who was able to brake on the clean side of the track and retain his net second place.
But Hamilton made a move stick on Bottas on the following lap, and then slammed in fastest lap on the next tour.
Raikkonen grabs podium spot
Raikkonen displayed solid pace at the end of his supersoft stint and pitted on lap 20. With Bottas getting stuck behind Fernando Alonso’s McLaren – which cost him 2s – Raikkonen rejoined ahead of the Williams, despite a stuttering getaway, in third.
Rosberg pitted on lap 22, and rejoined 12s ahead of Hamilton. Raikkonen pulled clear of Bottas, with Massa fifth ahead of Verstappen.
Hamilton closed to within 7.7s of Rosberg, but was warned of a water-pressure issue just after half distance, despite still lapping quickly. He was told the problem had “stabilised” a few laps later, by which time the gap had extended to over 13s again.
Verstappen lost a certain top-six finish when reported “something with the engine” – which had belched a huge cloud of smoke during his practice start. He retired on lap 34.
Huge scraps in the midfield
Behind Alonso in sixth, an epic fight for seventh developed between Kevin Magnussen (Renault), a recovering Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean (Haas), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Perez.
Ricciardo bailed out of his medium-tyre gamble, dropping to 13th, as Perez pulled a great move to pass Sainz for ninth.
Sainz had earlier banged wheels with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer in a battle over 13th, with Sainz given a 10s penalty for forcing him off the track.
That meant that he would lose his point for tenth anyway, as Jenson Button’sMcLaren was right on its tail when he locked up and ran wide with four laps to go, with Button outbraking him at the final corner to take the place anyway.
Ricciardo passed Palmer for 12th on lap 51, and was within 10s of Sainz to pick up 11th.
Another great duel was between Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, with Wehrlein pulling an aggressive move on lap 11 at Turn 2.
Nasr was forced to pit with a slow puncture, but they later resumed their barnstorming fight. The recovering Kvyat then became embroiled in the dispute, pulling a smart move on lap 28.
Wehrlein later suffered a stuck left-rear wheel in a pitstop, which demoted him to last.
|6||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+1 lap||52|
|7||Kevin Magnussen||Renault F1 Team||+1 lap||52|
|8||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||52|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1 lap||52|
|10||Jenson Button||McLaren||+1 lap||52|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||+1 lap||52|
|12||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||+1 lap||52|
|13||Jolyon Palmer||Renault F1 Team||+1 lap||52|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 lap||52|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||+1 lap||52|
|16||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||+1 lap||52|
|17||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||52|
|18||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing||+2 laps||51|
|R||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||Engine||33|
|R||Rio Haryanto||Manor Racing||Collision||0|
|R||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Collision||0|