Hamilton close to title after Russian GP win

© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton closed in on his third drivers’ championship with victory in the Russian Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg retired early on.

Pole-sitter Rosberg led in the opening laps, but complained after a safety car restart of a damaged throttle pedal and ran wide on two occasions to drop back to third place before retiring his car. Hamilton then had a clear run to the flag and was able to close out his ninth win of the season.

With Sebastian Vettel coming home second after a robust pass on team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, it is Vettel who now sits second in the drivers' championship, 66 points behind Hamilton. As a result, Hamilton needs to outscore the four-time world champion by nine points in Austin in two weeks to secure the title.

Sergio Perez secured a remarkable podium result having appeared to lose out on the penultimate lap. Having held third place for so long, Perez lost out to both Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen but Raikkonen then took out the Williams on the final lap, allowing Perez back up to third place.

Felipe Massa finished fourth from 15th on the grid, with Raikkonen limping across the line in fifth. However, Raikkonen was later hit with a 10 Second Stop and Go penalty - converted to a 30-second time penalty - which drops him to eighth place and sees Mercedes crowned constructors'  champions.

Daniil Kvyat finished his home race in sixth place ahead of an impressive driver from Sauber's Felipe Nasr. Pastor Maldonado took eighth place ahead of what was originally a double points finish for McLaren with Jenson Button ninth and Fernando Alonso in tenth. However, Alonso was then penalised for exceeding track limits and demoted to 11th place, handing Max Verstappen the final point.

A dramatic race was only two corners old when the safety car was required, with Nico Hulkenberg spinning on his own and tapping Verstappen into the wall, with Marcus Ericsson unable to avoid the Force India.

After the two stricken cars were cleared away, Rosberg pulled away from Hamilton at the restart before radioing in about throttle issues. Rosberg's problem was clear to see on the long main straight, with Hamilton and Bottas closing in after the Williams had breezed past Raikkonen having lost out to his fellow Finn on lap one.

Rosberg ran deep at Turn 2 on lap seven and Hamilton was able to move ahead of his team-mate, with Rosberg again running deep at Turn 13 to let Bottas past before he crawled in to the pits and retired.

With Rosberg out of the race, Hamilton eased clear at the front and was even able to back off to look after a concern over the performance of his rear wing to eventually win by six seconds.

It was Vettel who came through in to second place having dropped to fifth at the start, profiting after a second safety car period. Romain Grosjean lost control at Turn 3 on lap 12, hitting the outside barrier at high speed and neutralising the race for four laps. Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz and Button all pitted in a move which would pay off for Force India.

On the restart, Raikkonen didn't stick with Bottas ahead and Vettel got a run at his team-mate in to Turn 2, forcing Raikkonen wide which led to the Ferrari's switching positions in third and fourth.

The race for the podium turned when Bottas pit from second place on lap 26 with Vettel closing in, emerging in traffic and losing time. Vettel and Raikkonen ran longer, with Vettel easily getting the jump in to second place after his stop and Raikkonen just failing to jump the Williams.

However, the earlier stops had given Perez track position in a net second place, with Vettel pulling a good move in to Turn 13 to regain the position. Perez edged away from Ricciardo while Bottas and Raikkonen scrapped behind the Red Bull, losing valuable time.

Sainz - who was racing having been given the all-clear on Sunday morning following his heavy crash in FP3 which saw him hospitalised - was running in the points when a brake problem caused him to spin. A second spin followed at Turn 13 which caused him to hit the wall and damage his rear wing, ending his race.

Bottas finally jumped Ricciardo using DRS in to Turn 2 and Raikkonen followed two laps later at the second attempt, with the pair setting off after Perez who was trying to get to the end on his soft tyres. With Ricciardo retiring with suspected suspension damage, Perez did an excellent job for a number of laps to keep Bottas at bay.

With Williams telling Bottas to turn up his engine for the final two laps, Bottas finally got through under braking for Turn 13 with little over a lap remaining and Raikkonen followed around the outside of the next corner.

However, on the final lap Raikkonen had DRS and stayed close to Bottas, catching through Turn 3 before launching an ambitious attack in to Turn 4. Bottas turned in and Raikkonen hit the rear of the Williams, sending it in to the barriers and out of the race, while the Ferrari finally crossed the line fifth but under investigation.

While the late retirements promoted the two McLarens in to the points before Alonso's penalty, the Spaniard still provided a highlight of the team's race when his race engineer told him he was racing Massa behind him to the end, to which he replied: "I love your sense of humour!"

AS IT HAPPENED: Russian Grand Prix

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Pos Pilote Equipe Ecarts Arrêts
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 tours - 1h37m00.024s 1
02 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +5.953 1
03 Sergio Perez Force India +28.918 1
04 Felipe Massa Williams +38.831 1
05 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull +47.566 1
06 Felipe Nasr Sauber +56.508 1
07 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +61.088 1
08 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +72.358 1
09 Jenson Button McLaren +79.467 1
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +88.424 2
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren +91.210 1
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 tour 1
13 Roberto Merhi Manor +1 tour 1
14 Will Stevens Manor +2 tours 2
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +6 tours 1
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso DNF 1
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus DNF 1
18 Nico Rosberg Mercedes DNF 1
19 Nico Hulkenberg Force India DNF 0
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber DNF 0