Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg dominated the race today in Russia to come home with his seventh win in a row, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. It was Rosberg’s fourth win of the season, contributing to his 43-point lead over his teammate.
Rosberg now joins Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher and Vettel as the only drivers ever to have won seven Grand Prix’s in a row.
Hamilton fought from tenth place, where he had started on the grid, to finish in second place. He also had problems during the race, being told that he was a water pressure problem, that he was loosing water pressure, after he had managed to get the gap between himself and Rosberg down to seven seconds, with just twenty laps of the race to go.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I couldn’t win it, I had the pace, but then I had the problem with the engine again so I had to back off,” reported Hamilton. “I wasn’t at full throttle down the straights.”
A rather bittersweet podium for Hamilton, as he was hoping to prevent Rosberg from getting another victory to make four in a row, however he managed to keep the points gap between the two as small as he was able to.
However disappointed Hamilton was with the race, it was no doubt worse for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, as he was hit twice by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. He was first hit on the second corner of the first lap, as Kvyat carried too much speed into the corner, knocking Vettel from behind, before hitting him again on the next corner, sending Vettel slamming into the barriers, and out of the race. Vettel, was furious on the matter, sending a flurry of angry words over the team radio.
“WHAT THE F*CK ARE WE DOING HERE?!” Vettel bellowed over the radio, “Oh, I’m out, somebody hit me, crash, in the f*cking rear!”
Vettel then exited his car, travelling back to the pits by moped, before visiting Red Bull’s Christian Horner for a short talk.
“All I could do was apologise, because this week it was a mistake by Daniil Kvyat,” Horner spoke about the matter.
“Daniil just misjudged his braking spot. Emotions run high – in his home race, I think he has just gone for too much too soon at the start.”
Vettel, now calmer, spoke in the paddock about the matter.
“I got a big hit, I was lucky not to spin and then got another huge hit which turned me around and I couldn’t avoid the barriers,” he said.
“These things happen – there is nothing I could have done differently. I think there was enough damage to conclude I couldn’t continue. If anyone needs to talk to anyone, I think it’s him [Kvyat]…”
Kvyat was handed a ten-second stop/go penalty for this, which he served, however this was a blow to the Russian, who was hoping to do well at his home Grand Prix, meaning that he ended up in a rather disappointing fifteenth place, sandwiched between the two Saubers.
Kvyat later apologised to Vettel for the ‘mess’ he had caused, which not only lost the race for Vettel, but also ruined it for teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
“There was a bit going on [at the start],” Kvyat reported, “and I think in the last moment I didn’t expect it to slow so much.
“I tried to press the brakes, the rear wheels locked and the first contact came from that. The second contact he just slowed down a lot, I couldn’t see ahead, and I didn’t have time to react. All the mess came from me… of course it doesn’t feel great but these things happen sometimes. It’s probably the messiest [start] of my career. I will learn from it – and of course apologies to everyone involved.
“I think we will speak [with Vettel and Ricciardo], that’s all we can do. Everyone will attack me, but I’m okay with that.”
Kvyat will now find his future under scrutiny from the team’s Helmut Marko, who is thought to be keen to promote Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen to the team.
However, it was not all bad news for Ferrari, as Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen retained the third place from where he started to bring home the 700th podium for the team, with a solid drive from the Finn. Raikkonen now rises to third place on the championship tables with 36 points, now ahead of Vettel who has 33 points.
Williams’ Valterri Bottas started strong, despite being quickly overtaken by Raikkonen, however he soon got that back after the safety car following Vettel’s crash. Unfortunately for Bottas, he was soon overtaken by Hamilton, who had jumped teammate Felipe Massa at the restart, and then Raikkonen again, meaning that he finished fourth, behind Raikkonen, just avoiding a podium finish.
Bottas’ teammate Massa finished behind him, in fifth place, after he was quickly overtaken by Hamilton following the restart after the safety car.
It was a fantastic finish for McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who rose eight places to finish in sixth place, after starting in fourteenth. It was Alonso’s first points of the season. The Spaniard benefited from the carnage at turns 2 and 3 to dash into the top ten, an advantage which he held right until the finish.
“We were lucky in Turns Two and Three on the opening lap – due to those accidents, we were able to gain some places for free.” A pleased Alonso reported.
“But, as we saw last year, we can make a good start but then not be able to maintain those strong starting positions. This year, it’s different – we have the pace: to finish sixth, and set the fifth-fastest lap, shows that our car is still gaining pace.
“In fact, the car felt good all race – obviously, we were saving fuel at some points of the afternoon, but, on one lap, I just decided to go for it – to wake myself up a little bit! – and the lap-time showed the potential is there. Finishing in the points should be our regular target from now on.”
Jenson Button rose up through the field along with his teammate to make up two places to finish tenth, just inside of the points after starting twelfth. He had to back off following the mess into turn 2, however managed to overcome this bring the team home to their first double points finish of the season.
“As the pack dived into Turn Two, I had to back off because it was mayhem.” Button reported.” The bollard at Turn Two is the problem at the start because people are trying to fight through Turns Two and Three. I think that needs some looking at.
“From there, I was disadvantaged, but the pace was in the car. After that, it was just a case of fighting my way back – which I really enjoyed. It’s difficult to overtake around here, but I was able to make a few moves and enjoy myself.
“I think the next race in Barcelona will be reasonably difficult for us, but there’s no reason not to look forward to targeting another points haul in Monaco.”
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen looked like he was going to come home with a sixth place finish today at Sochi, until his engine broke on the 34th lap, leading to his retirement.
“Unfortunately I had to retire today after running in P6… ” A disappointed Verstappen said.
“It was looking like a great race up until then, as I was cruising around and I didn’t have any pressure from behind; I was just following the guys in front and our pace was strong. We could hold on to the tyres very well and I have to say I was quite relaxed, managing everything well and it was all looking so good… Who knows what could’ve happened!
“Of course it’s disappointing to have to stop the car, but this is a mechanical sport and these things happen. Now we just have to take the positives from the weekend and get ready for the first European race of the season in Spain in two weeks’ time.”
It wasn’t a good race for teammate Carlos Sainz either, as he incurred a ten second time penalty and two penalty points for forcing Renault’s Jolyon Palmer off the track earlier in the race, and ended up finishing twelfth.
“What an unfortunate race.” Sainz reported.
“Even though I did one of my best ever starts, a piece of another car got stuck in our side pod, which made me lose downforce during my first stint and also meant I had to stop too early for my pit-stop onto the Softs.
“This then compromised my second stint and I then also got a 10-second penalty…Now it’s time to reset, get ready for my home race – it always gives me an extra boost! – and come back stronger than ever.”
It was a good race for Renault, with Kevin Magnussen finishing seventh after a strong drive.
“It feels really good to get these points for the team as I know how hard everyone’s been working this season.” Magnussen reported.
“I made a great start, but then lost a couple of positions at the first corner because of a spin in front of me. After that I was pushing hard for the entire race, made some good overtakes and I had a great pit stop from the crew. We were a bit lucky today; we’ve been unlucky in the past so I’ve certainly no complaints!”
Teammate Jolyon Palmer also had a strong drive, finishing in thirteenth, just outside of a double points finish for the team.
“It’s great for the team to get our first points of the season and I’m pleased that we’re making genuine progress with the car.” A happy Palmer spoke.
“Kevin [Magnussen] showed what is possible today so that’s a good target for the next races. Overall we’ve learnt a lot of positives this weekend so I feel there’s a lot to build on for the races ahead.”
A mixed weekend for Haas, with Romain Grosjean bringing the team into the points after finishing eighth, managing to fight off Force India’s Sergio Perez after starting in fifteenth place.
For Esteban Gutierrez, however, it was a disappointing race, after he collided with Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg at turn 2, with Hulkeberg then taking Manor’s Rio Haryato and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson with him. Gutierrez and Ericsson, luckily, were able to continue after the incident, however, Hulkenberg and Haryanto were forced to retire.
Gutierrez received a drive-through penalty and two points on his license for the incident.
“When I approached the first corner I took a lot of margin but I locked my front wheels and I had nowhere to go,” Gutierrez reported.
“I feel very bad. Obviously I damaged a lot of racers in front.
“Coming from behind, it’s always tough when you have nowhere to go. I tried to do my best to stop and it’s a shame, not only for me but the guys in front as well.”
Force India’s Sergio Perez managed to make a strong recovery after having a puncture on lap 1, finishing ninth, inside the points.
“It’s obviously good to come away with my first points of the year, but without the puncture on lap one the result today could have been so much better.” Perez spoke.
“I didn’t get the best start, but I found a good line going into turn two and I was ahead of Ricciardo and Vettel coming out of the corner. Then I realised I had a puncture, which dropped me to the back of the field. After that it was a recovery drive and I managed to get back up to ninth place just behind Grosjean. I had a quicker car and fresher tyres, but he had very good traction and I just couldn’t get close enough to make a move.
“It’s a shame not to score more points because we did everything right today, but we were just really unlucky. There are lots of positives to take away from this weekend – the great performance in qualifying and the strong race pace. The car is improving and we have some upgrades on the way so I’m feeling optimistic ahead of Barcelona.”
However, it was not a good race for teammate Hulkenberg- who was unable to finish the race due to a collision with Gutierrez on the first lap.
“It was a very frustrating end to my weekend.” Hulkenberg stated.
“I got to turn two and felt a big shove from behind: Esteban [Gutierrez] out-braked himself, hit me and spun me around. I was hit by other cars and the damage was too much to even attempt to continue.
“It’s very disappointing and not the way I wanted to celebrate my 100th race weekend. Hopefully our luck will change soon as we have been very unlucky lately. We should have some upgrades in Spain and I want to be back scoring the points we deserve.”
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson finished fourteenth this afternoon, after being caught up in the collision between Hulkenberg and Gutierrez, and started last on the grid. Due to the early safety car, the team chose to change Ericsson’s race strategy.
“It’s been a decent race for me.” Ericsson reported.
“I had a difficult weekend as I have been struggling a lot to get the tyres to work on this special surface here. After the long-runs on Friday, we expected the car would behave better on high-fuel, which was the case today.
“For myself I can be satisfied with my race performance. Obviously, the result is not where we want to be. We are struggling with our pace at the moment, but we just need to focus even more to work on our performance.”
Teammate Felipe Nasr got a puncture this afternoon, compromising his chances of a good race as he had to make an early pit-stop. As well as this, Nasr also received a five second time penalty for not respecting the race director’s instructions regarding turn 2.
“I had a good start and was able to gain some positions in the first laps of the race.” Nasr reported.
“Unfortunately, on my first stint with the supersoft tyres, I had a slow puncture on the left front tyre, which forced me to box on lap 12. We changed to the soft tyres on which I made it to the end. This early pit stop surely compromised my race. It is unfortunate, but I can also take some positives from the weekend as I felt comfortable in the car.”
An unfortunate day for Manor’s Rio Haryanto, who was caught up in Gutierrez’s collision with Hulkeberg at turn 2, and forced to retire. Teammate Pascal Wehrlein was also delayed by an extra-long pit stop to change onto super soft tyres after he had fought hard, leaving him to finish last amid this.
An overall good race, with plenty of excitement on the first few laps. Happy with the race or not, now the drivers are looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, in two weeks time.