A supreme Lewis Hamilton made history in Sochi on Sunday when he won the inaugural Russian Grand Prix for his fourth straight victory to extend his lead in the F1 title race and secure Mercedes a maiden constructors’ title.
Starting from his 38th pole position, the 29-year-old Briton cruised to the 31st success of his career to draw level with fellow-Englishman Nigel Mansell in the record books.
He took the chequered flag 13.657 seconds ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton’s win lifted him 17 points clear of Rosberg, who produced a stirring recovery drive from the back of the field after making a mistake that required an opening lap pit stop.
Hamilton now has 291 points to Rosberg’s 274 with three races remaining.
“Congratulations to the team on the constructors’ championship — history in the making,” said Hamilton before he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived at the circuit with 14 laps remaining to preside over the podium ceremony.
Just a week after Jules Bianchi’s life-threatening accident in the storm-hit Japanese Grand Prix, where the French driver suffered severe head injuries, the race was preceded by tributes to support his fight for life in hospital in Yokkaichi.
Hamilton’s win was his ninth this year and the result delivered Mercedes’ their ninth one-two of the season as they ended Red Bull’s four-year dominance of the teams’ crown. They will now aim to beat McLaren’s record of 10 wins set in 1988.
“We don’t forget about Jules, this is still overshadowing everything we do,” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.
“Nico made the move (at the start) and it looked clean and Lewis seemed to have lost it.
– Rosberg attacked –
“Lewis might have thought it was the dirty line and braking would be tricky and Nico might have made that corner if he didn’t lock it up. It could have been “cold-blooded Lewis” or “lucky Lewis” – now it doesn’t matter.”
Rosberg attacked at Turn Two on the opening lap, but locked up under braking and after spearing across a run-off area into the lead, conceded the position and pitted, having flat-spotted his tyres.
It was an expensive rush of blood.
“Sorry, guys,” said Rosberg. “That was very unnecessary (his attack on lap one), but thank you for the unbelievable car that allowed me to fight back to take second.”
Finn Valtteri Bottas finished third for Williams ahead of Jenson Button and his McLaren team-mate, Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen, with two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Spain finishing sixth for Ferrari after an inspired, but troubled, drive.
It was the first time since the season-opening Australian race that both McLarens finished in the top five.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Red Bull ahead of departing German team-mate and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari.
Sergio Perez was 10th for Sauber.
“I’m so happy to be here,” added Hamilton, from the podium, where Putin deftly avoided a champagne soaking.
“We have had another amazing week, Russia and the people have been fantastic and I am looking forward to being here for many more years to come.
“It is also not that far from where I live so I will be popping over for holidays!
“Nico did a great job to recover today and as a team we did a great job to win the first constructors’ championship for Mercedes. It’s a wonderful day.”
Rosberg shared only part of his joy. “Half of me is so disappointed because I messed up today,” he explained. “But the other half is made up for the team.
“We have secured the most important title of the season and I am very happy and that’s why I can still smile.”
Bottas said: “I need to be happy for us as a team, what we have been doing since last year is amazing. We were the best of the rest today, but unfortunately Mercedes were quicker than us.”
As Mercedes’s celebrations began with everyone wearing a black celebratory t-shirt and enjoying a glass of champagne, Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda revealed a rare show of his emotions.
“It means a lot,” said the Austrian legend.
“I have to tell you, I’m a little emotional. When we started this together – Ross Brawn, Toto Wolff and myself – it was hard work. It’s an emotional moment, but let’s think of the next race already.
“We will celebrate, but we have to go home. Lewis is flying home with me. Nico did a very good job after his first lap mistake. I’m happy, I can’t say any more than that.
“They raced today. You saw that at the first corner. I thought that’s it again, but it was not as there was enough run-off. They always race. They will continue to do this. – Agence France-Presse