For the third straight year a Mercedes driver triumphed at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi – would Lewis Hamilton make it a third straight win at the venue, or would Nico Rosberg break his duck?
Qualifying looked to be a close and private battle between the two Mercedes drivers – no one was getting near them and the pair were trading fastest laps, setting the scene for a fascinating Q3 and also a good race – until disaster struck for Hamilton when a component on his engine – the same part that failed in qualifying for China – gave up, leaving Hamilton to start from 10th. Rosberg was untroubled in taking pole.
Another potential rival, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, qualified in second, but would start from seventh, having been given a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. This promoted the Williams of Valtteri Bottas to second, and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to third.
Rosberg had a good start, proving to be untroubled and making it around the fast turn 1 without any problems. He also got around turn 2 without any bother, but the same could not be said for everyone.
Having not seen it, I can’t pass judgement on who is to blame (if indeed anyone is to blame), but a collision between several cars toward the back of the pack put the Manor of Haryanto out, along with the Force India of Hulkenberg. They were not the only casualties…
Vettel would turn the airwaves blue as he registered his disgust at the accident, which (unlike their clash in China) is very much Kvyat’s fault – and he took a ten-second stop go penalty for it.
The early melee (and safety car that followed) saw Hamilton jump to fifth, and whilst he spent a bit of time stuck behind the Williams of Bottas, he was able to dispatch the Finn following the pit stops, and would get up to second before too long – but not before Rosberg had etched out a comfortable gap of around 12 seconds.
Slowly but surely Hamilton would reel Rosberg in, but a water pressure problem meant he had to back off to protect his engine – and in truth, Rosberg was probably holding something back, just in case.
Further back, Williams might feel a touch disappointed not to land a podium, with Ferrari having too much pace for them – Raikkonen had a comfortable third. Max Verstappen might have been on for a points finish, until his car gave up.
There were some absorbing scraps throughout the field. Both Ricciardo and Kvyat tried to battle their way through the field and McLaren managed to score a double points finish – the best being Fernando Alonso, who claimed sixth. Perhaps the best result though, belongs to Kevin Magnussen, who scored Renault’s first points of the season with a highly credible seventh. Romain Grosjean picked up more points for Haas, whilst Red Bull failed to score any points whatsoever – a poor afternoon for them.
In the end though, the day belongs to Rosberg. Four wins out of four (and seven consecutive wins now) moves him 43 points clear at the top of the standings. Is there any stopping him?