The third ever Russian Grand Prix at Sochi was won by Nico Rosberg after he charged off from pole not to come under threat again. Lewis Hamilton finished an unhappy second while Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium for Ferrari in third place.
As the lights went out, Rosberg took the best start, with Raikkonen moving past Bottas into turn 2. The trouble happened in the middle of the field however, as Kvyat bumped into Vettel, pushing the Ferrari into touching Ricciardo, and in that event incurring a flat tyre. The next corner, Vettel obviously was slower than the rest, and got run into from behind again, sending him into the barriers. Replays showed later it was Kvyat again who hit Vettel. The Russian driver was handed a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for his mistakes in the first lap.
Nico Hulkenberg was equally quickly eliminated from the race, after which a safety car was brought onto the track to allow the marshalls to clear some debris.
Behind the safety car, Hamilton was already 5th, Verstappen 6th, Alonso 7th, followed by Grosjean, Magnussen and Palmer.
Due to all the damage incurred in the first lap, numerous drivers entered the pits, including both Re Bull drivers who opted to change to mediums, targeting to go to the end on their set. Gutierrez at Haas made the same choice.
At the restart, Bottas managed to re-pass Raikkonen for second place while Hamilton moved past Massa into 4th place. On lap 7, as Raikkonen struggled to find an opening on Bottas, Hamilton got ahead of the Ferrari at turn 5.
On lap 17, Bottas was the first of the top 7 to pit, changing to softs and rejoining the track 3.5s down on Alonso. Hamilton pitted a single lap later and rejoined the track just behind Bottas. One lap later however, Hamilton got past the Finn and moved on to pass Alonso on the next approach to turn 2.
Race leader Rosberg stopped on lap 20, with Verstappen doing the same 2 laps later. The Dutchman had moved up into 2nd place due to his late stop, and pitted just before Hamilton would have become a threat to challenge him for second place. He rejoined in 7th, ahead Ericsson who only made a stop during the safety car period and Alonso who dropped back to 9th after making his own stop.
What followed was a 4 way fight among Ricciardo, Grosjean, Magnussen and Sainz, with Ricciardo moving backwards until deciding to pit and change to softs, rather than the mediums that failed to work at Sochi. Magnussen got the upper hand of the other three, pulling away while Alonso pulled away from all of them as well.
While that settled, Verstappen's race came to an end with a power unit problem, leaving 6th place vacant for Alonso.
It was also around the same time that Hamilton got message about water pressure, something that might have been a coded message to slow down. Having reduced his deficit to Rosberg to little more than 7 seconds, the gap soon increased again, settling positions at the front as Raikkonen had been a lonely third since his pitstop, followed by the unthreatening Williams cars of Bottas and Massa.
The only position change of the 10 laps was the result of Sainz struggling on his tyres, and Button makes use of that to move up into 10th, settling both McLarens into the points for the first time this season.
As the cars arrived at parc fermé, Mercedes engineers were ready to connect a cooling system onto Hamilton's car, on the right hand sidepod. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said there was a water leak, while "Rosberg was also having power unit issues". One can wonder then why the latter set the fastest lap on the penultimate pass of the finish line.
|1||Nico Rosberg||GER||Mercedes AMG||1:32:41.997|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG||+25.022s|
|6||Fernando Alonso||ESP||McLaren||+1 lap|
|7||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Renault||+1 lap|
|8||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Haas||+1 lap|
|9||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India||+1 lap|
|10||Jenson Button||GBR||McLaren||+1 lap|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull Racing||+1 lap|
|12||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|13||Jolyon Palmer||GBR||Renault||+1 lap|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber||+1 lap|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull Racing||+1 lap|
|16||Felipe Nasr||BRA||Sauber||+1 lap|
|17||Esteban Gutierrez||MEX||Haas||+1 lap|
|18||Pascal Wehrlein||GER||Manor||+2 laps|
|NC||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso||DNF|
|NC||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India||DNF|