Lewis Hamilton moved within touching distance of a third F1 drivers’ title as he took a dominant Russian Grand Prix victory ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, while Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg retired from the race with a mechanical failure soon after the start of the race. Hamilton’s 42nd win also saw him surpass boyhood hero Ayrton Senna’s career wins total.
With Vettel second, Sergio Perez claimed his and Force India’s first podium finish of the year, the Mexican profiting from a final-lap collision involving Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Starting from pole, Rosberg held his advantage when the lights went out to signal the start of the race, despite determined pressure from Hamilton. Behind the front-row pair, Raikkonen made an excellent start from fifth place and made his way past Vettel and Bottas to claim third place.
Perez slotted into sixth behind Vettel but the Mexican’s team-mate Nico Hulkenberg was in trouble. Starting from seventh he spun in Turn 2 and as he slid across the track he collided with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson. Verstappen sustained a pincyture and limped back to the pits for repairs but the race was over for Hulkenberg and Ericsson.
The incident brought out the safety car and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean pitted to check his front wing, as he too had been caught up in the Turn 2 drama, and he also switched from super soft tyres to soft.
When the race restarted on lap four, Bottas made his way past Raikkonen to reclaim P3. At the front, however, Rosberg was in difficulty, telling his team that he was having problems with the throttle of his car.
Hamilton closed in and on lap seven Rosberg, clearly struggling with his car, went wide through Turn 2 and Hamilton swept past to take the lead. Rosberg pitted at the end of the lap and eventually retired from the race.
Hamilton now led by just over two seconds from Bottas, with Raikkonen third ahead of Vettel. Perez was three seconds behind Vettel in fifth place, with Daniil Kvyat sixth ahead of Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was eighth, just 0.7s ahead of Felipe Massa who had climbed to ninth from 15th on the grid and 10th-placed Pastor Maldonado.
The safety car was deployed again on lap 12 as Lotus’ Romain Gropsjean, in P13 lost control on the way through Turn 3. The Frenchman went side on into the barriers destroying his car. He quickly clambered out of the wreckage, however, and was uninjured in the incident.
During the safety car period Perez and Ricciardo pitted on lap 13, with both shedding their starting supersofts for soft tyres. That left Hamilton in the lead from Bottas, Raikkonen and Vettel, while Kvyat was now up to fifth ahead of Nasr, Massa and Maldonado, who had both started on soft tyres, Perez and Ricciardo.
The re-start, on lap 17, was action-packed. Bottas was told that Hamilton was struggling with tyre temperatures behind the safety car and sensing an opportunity the Finn attacked in earnest as the safety car left the circuit. Hamilton held firm to stay in the lead, however.
Behind them, Vettel attempted to muscle past Raikkonen through Turn 2, with the Finn forced off track, but Raikkonen too held his nerve and stayed in second place. Vettel hadn’t given up, however, and a couple of corners later the German passed his team-mate on the inside to take P3.
Further back Perez passed Maldonado to move into P8 and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, who had been passed clear to race following a heavy crash in FP3 on Saturday, got by Ricciardo to claim P10, though the Red Bull Racing driver would reclaim the spot on the next lap.
At the front, Hamilton was now striding away and by the start of lap 23 he had 6.3s in hand over Bottas and was running almost a second per lap quicker than the Finn.
Bottas pitted from P2 on lap 27. He took on soft tyresd and emerged into traffic behind Sainz in P11.
Veetl was the next of the frontrunners to stop, on lap 31. His stop for soft tyres was 2.2 seconds and he emerged ahead of Bottas. Massa too pitted on the same lap, shedding his opening soft tyres for supersofts. Raikkonen made his stop for soft rubber at the end of the following tour.
He rejoined alongside Bottas and the Williams driver battled hard to hold position, despite a strong challenger from his fellow Finn
It was then Hamilton’s turn to pit, which left Kvyat, on lap 33, leading his home race. He didn’t have much time to enjoy the moment, however, or to have his lead officially recorded as he pitted at the end of the lap. He rejoined in P9 ahead of the McLarens.
Nasr was the last to stop, and once the Brazilian had rejoined the order saw Hamilton leading by 13 seconds from Vettel. Perez had profited from his stop under the second safety car and the Mexican was now third on soft tyres with fellow early stopper Ricciardo in fourth. Bottas was now fifth and engaged in a toe-to-toe battle with Raikkonen, while Sainz was seventh ahead of Kvyat, Massa and Button.
Both Perez and Ricciardo were now battling to keep their older tyres alive under pressure from the quicker cars of Bottas and Raikkonen. On lap 43, however, Ricciardo fell into DRS range of fifth-placed Bottas, while third-placed Perez was visibly struggling with front tyre wear.
On lap 45 Ricciardo could hold out no more and Bottas went past the Australian in Turn 2. Ricciardo defended hard against the next assault from Raikkonen but eventually the Finn got past under DRS on the main straight. Ricciardo’s hard work proved in vain as he exited the race just a lap later. The Australian reported that something was “broken on the car, suspension or something” and he stopped his Red Bull at Turn 8.
Further back Sainz in P9 was in trouble with his brakes and he following one spin he had another more terminal one at Turn 13 where he slid backwards into the barriers and out of the race.
By lap 50 Bottas was inside DRS range of Perez but was struggling to get past the Mercedes-powered Force India man. Bottas was brave however and on one lap from home he braked late and pushed past the Mexican in Turn 13. Raikkonen seized the opportunity too and now the battle for third was between the Williams and Ferrari drivers.
Raikkonen closed in and attempted a riskt overtake in Turn 4 of the final lap. The attempt failed and he collided with the Williams, taking Bottas out of the race.
With his own car damaged Raikkonen was forced to slow. Perez, despite his struggles, swept past and after Hamilton had crossed the line to claim his ninth victory of the season and Vettel took second, the Force India driver grabbed the fifth podium finish of his career and his first since the Bahrain GP of 2014.
Raikkonen was also passed by Massa and with the Ferrari driver fifth, sixth place went to Kvyat, with Nasr seventh ahead of Maldonado, Button and Alonso.
2015 Russian Grand Prix – Race
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