On Saturday, we saw Nico Rosberg taking Pole Position for the Russian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.
After qualifying, it was announced that Lewis Hamilton will be taking a five place grid penalty due to MGU-UK problems that affected his qualifying. For more information about this, please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/hamilton-goes-back-to-melbourne-spec-engine-for-the-russian-gp/.
The Russian GP is underway! Nico Rosberg gets a good start off line but heading into Turn 1 was chaos. Sebastian Vettel was clipped from behind by Danill Kvyat, the man he angrily blamed for causing a Turn 1 collision in China, which bumped him into the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Vettel’s misery was compounded at the next corner when Kvyat slammed into the back of him again which then spun the Ferrari into the wall and out of the race. This then triggered an expletive-laden radio message from Vettel who you could understand the way he reacted even though many fans disagreed with Vettel blaming Kvyat for the China incident. But on Lap six of the race, Kvyat stopped to serve a ten-second stop-go penalty in front of a grandstand of home fans.
While the battle between Kvyat and Vettel was ongoing, Haas F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez clipped Nico Hulkenberg, spinning the Force India driver around and also collecting the Manor of Rio Haryanto. While the Haas driver recovered to the pit lane for a new front wing, the incident ended the race for both Hulkenberg and Haryanto.
The safety car was deployed for two laps and after the restart, Rosberg still lead the field ahead of Valtteri Bottas reclaimed second position from Kimi Raikkonen while Lewis Hamilton overtook Massa for fourth.
On Lap five, Hamilton dove down the inside of Raikkonen at Turn 5 to move up to third with a brilliant move, but Bottas’ Williams was a harder obstacle to overcome and the battle was on between both of the drivers.
Lap 6 of the race saw Rosberg leading the field by 2.5 seconds. There is a battle for twelfth between Nasr, Button, Wehrlein, Kvyat and Ericsson ongoing on the track. But Kvyat and Ericsson were battling each other hard for fifteenth place; with both drivers defending well from each other but Kvyat is then able to get past him despite having no traction in the corners.
We then see a battle between Raikkonen and Bottas for position on the track which both drivers defended well. But then Raikkonen finds himself under threat from Hamilton and is able to pass him for third place in Lap 7.
Hamilton was finally released into second when Bottas pitted on Lap 15, but by then was 15 seconds behind leader Rosberg. Hamilton then pitted himself for soft tyres a lap later and was just beaten to Turn 2 by Bottas, though he passed the Williams driver at the same point one lap later.
By Lap 18, Rosberg still leads ahead of 15.1 seconds ahead of Raikkonen. After the pitstops on Lap 21, Raikkonen now finds himself in a net third place; with Hamilton now moving into second place and hoping to close the gap to his team mate for the lead of the race. Rosberg then pits himself on Lap 22 and still remains in the lead of the race ahead of Verstappen who hasn’t stopped yet.
Lap 26 of the race saw Sainz Jr being under investigation by the stewards for forcing another driver off the track when he was trying to pass Palmer for track position and is then given a 10 second penalty for the offence. Ricciardo and Magnussen are battling each other for tenth place on the track as Rosberg still leads the race.
A few laps later, the battle for sixteenth between Nasr, Wehrlein and Kvyat is ongoing. Wehrlein tried to get past Nasr for position but made the move from too far behind and Nasr is able to defend. But the next lap sees Kvyat passing Wehrlein with a good move and is now seventeenth place.
Lap 29 sees the battle for eighth between Magnussen, Grosjean, Ricciardo and Sainz Jr building up nicely. Ricciardo passes Magnussen, Magnussen regaining the position as Grosjean sees an opportunity to pass Ricciardo which he does and Sainz Jr gaining on them all the time.
Two laps later sees Perez passing Sainz Jr for track position. Lap 35 saw Max Verstappen while running sixth in the race having to retire his Toro Rosso due to engine problems. Lap 36 still sees Rosberg leading the race ahead of Hamilton by 8.2 seconds; with Hamilton catching Rosberg quickly now.
With Sainz Jr getting a 10 second penalty, both McLaren drivers could get points and it will be interesting to see how the final third of the race unfolds. It has now been reported that Hamilton has a water issue problem with his Mercedes engine and has been asked to take it easy for the remainder of the race.
But Rosberg leads Hamilton on the final lap of the race by 20.7 seconds and wins the Russian Grand Prix which is his seventh consecutive win in F1, his fourth of the season and his eighteenth win of his career.
Hamilton is a credible second 25 seconds behind Rosberg, Raikkonen finished in third place 31.9 seconds behind Rosberg, Bottas was a credible fourth 50.2 seconds behind Rosberg and Massa finished fifth 1.14.4 seconds behind Rosberg.
Alonso was sixth 1 lap behind Rosberg, Magnussen was seventh 1 lap behind Rosberg, Grosjean was eighth 1 lap behind Rosberg, Perez was ninth 1 lap behind Rosberg and Button was tenth 1 lap behind Rosberg.
Nico Rosberg leads the Drivers’ Championship with 100 points, Hamilton is second with 57 points, Raikkonen is third with 43 points, Ricciardo is fourth with 36 points, Vettel is fifth with 33 points, Massa is sixth with 32 points, Grosjean is seventh with 22 points, Kvyat is eighth with 21 points, Bottas is ninth with 19 points and Verstappen is tenth with 13 points.
Mercedes lead the Constructors Championship with 157 points, Ferrari is second with 76 points, Red Bull are third with 57 points, Williams are fourth with 51 points, Haas are fifth with 22 points, Toro Rosso are sixth with 17 points, McLaren are seventh with 10 points, Force India are eighth with 8 points and Renault are ninth with 6 points.
I feel that McLaren have had an good weekend and have shown that they can still race near the front when they have the opportunity to do so. Alonso getting sixth place has been the biggest surprise of the race. Fernando drove a superb race to gain sixth yesterday despite a defensive race and it is very well deserved. And for him to secure this result shows that he did a brilliant job and has shown that despite not having the outright pace to challenge their rivals; he drove a great race to claim this result today and showed why he was signed by the team.
With Button gaining a point in tenth, I was very happy for him especially after battling through the grid to achieve it and racing hard. But with both drivers scoring points, this weekend has been great for them and for both drivers to get their first points of the season is fantastic and showing that even though it is still clear that the McLaren team have a lot of work to do in order to try and extract performance from their car, they are making small gains that have paid off yesterday.
Perez did an okay job to get ninth place and had a great battle to get there after battling with Verstappen, Sainz Jr, Ricciardo and Buttonfor most of the race. This point for himself and Force India are vital and only shows just how much promise he has as a driver if he has the car underneath him to do so and that he is a talented and promising racing driver.
Grosjean battled his way through yesterday to get eighth place. He battled his way through the field and created some great overtaking moves to get there. Grosjean may not have had the weekend that he wanted with Haas this weekend but he did the best that he could do and picked up some more points for the team and also started his season well.
Magnussen had a bit of an action packed yet defensive race to finish seventh, scoring his first points of the season and Renault’s first points since returning to the sport as a works based team. But there is still a lot of work to be done but the fact that Magnussen managed to score some much needed points for himself and his team will help him prepare for the rest of the 2016 season.
Massa did a great job to get fifth place today after battling with his team mate and Hamilton today. But in a race where many expected him to finish and to maintain the momentum he has so far, he has managed to gain some points for the team and put himself in good stead for the rest of the 2016 season.
Bottas did a great job to get fourth place yesterday and deserves a mention. He drove a solid race today despite not winning the battle with Lewis and he did a great job to secure some much needed points for his team after a good performance this weekend and it is clear that the car was working well for them as a result. This will only help him prepare for the rest of the 2016 season.
Raikkonen deserves a mention. He drove a solid race to third place and battled his way through to get these points which just solidify Ferrari’s status in the Constructors Championship. But he needs to keep the momentum going and see if he can get back to the front in Barcelona in two weeks time.
Hamilton drove a solid race to finish second today. He may not have had the race he wanted; and didn’t have a chance to try and get past but he did a great job to secure a podium today. What a fantastic job from him and this will only give him a slight satisfaction heading into the next race in Barcelona.
All that is left to say about this race is that Rosberg deserved to win at Sochi and he needed to in order to show that he cannot be discounted as a driver. His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race. Mercedes has built on the results that they have gained so far since pre-season testing and have shown that they are just the best team on the grid at the moment. All credit to Rosberg for doing a superb job this weekend and winning his seventh consecutive race and his third race of the season.
With Barcelona not far away, many will wondering if this season will be Rosberg’s at last or can Hamilton or Vettel challenge him for wins along the way. But what is for certain is that Formula One is building up rather nicely.