Russian GP

Flashback: Russia 2015 – Hamilton closes in on World Championship

After a couple of interrupted days in Russia, the Grand Prix will be somewhat of a mystery for many with some interesting stories to look out for during the race.

Once again Mercedes ahead of the pack at the front of the pack, with Williams of Valtteri Bottas just behind. It would be those at the back though who could be the story of the race, a poor qualifying fro Felipe Massa starting in the second half of the top ten, and Carlos Sainz starting from the back after his crash on Saturday morning.

All the drivers expect Massa, Maldonado, Alonso and the two Saubers of Ericsson and Nasr were on the super soft tyres with the drivers starting their formation lap. Nico Rosberg slowed the pack up as much as he can with them forming very slowly.

With the cars on the grid, it was lights out with Hamilton getting a decent start, behind Rosberg. He went around the outside but Rosberg retained the lead. There was a crash at the second corner with Hulkenberg and Ericsson. The Force India spun round, with the Sauber ending up in the side of him.

The Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen was damaged by the spinning Force India and had a flat tyre. Romain Grosjean also pitted for a new soft tyres, but had a slow pit stop. Neither of them lost a lap to the safety car.

The safety car came in at the end of lap three, with Rosberg backing the pack up once again. It was a good run down to the second corner, with him overtaking Raikkonen for third. Vettel remained in fifth. Button had made his way up to the top ten. Rosberg said over the radio that he had a problem with the throttle, with Hamilton closing down on his team mate. Bottas remained close in on the pair of them.

Rosberg responded with the fastest lap. while Vettel tried to use the DRS to overtake his team mate on the run down to the second corner. Lewis Hamilton overtook Rosberg on the exit of turn 2, with the German having a problem in braking. Bottas closed in on the Mercedes, and then overtook him on the same lap with the Ferraris also overtaking the Mercedes before coming into the pits.

The German came slowly into his pit box and then jumped out of the car, could it signal the end to his world championship? Massa had made his was way up to 9th.

At the front of the field, the gap between Hamilton and Bottas remained at just two seconds. With the Mercedes fuel saving, Hamilton was told that he would be able to push more, increasing the gap. Maldonado made a move on Jenson Button for the final points paying position. Carlos Sainz then closed in on the McLaren. The Spaniard got past a lap later.

Romain Grosjean crashed in turn 3 in the Lotus, a heavy crash which brought out the safety car given there was a tyre in the middle of the track. Neither Hamilton or Bottas pitted from the front, Perez did though in the Force India with Daniel Ricciardo also pitting along with Jenson Button. Alonso pitted on lap 14. The barriers were damaged again with the impact.

Lewis Hamilton complained over the radio that the safety car was going too slow and that he couldn’t keep heat in the tyres.

The safety car came in a the end of lap 16, with Bottas told over the radio that Hamilton could have problems with tyre warm-up. Vettel was very close to Raikkonen, but the two leaders were away, with the rest in close succession. Vettel went down the inside and Raikkonen had to go off the track. Massa went around the outside wide, but nearly got overtaken by the Lotus of Maldonado.

Hamiltons first lap was the fastest lap of the race, pulling out a two second to Bottas. Sainz had a battle with Ricciardo, right from turn 3 through to beyond turn 5. Verstappen was also behind the pair and complaining that there was no grid.

On lap 23 the gap at the front was up to six seconds, with the gap reducing behind from Bottas to Vettel, down to two seconds. The stewards told Alonso not to cut the apex of turn 16, while Sainz was put under investigation for crossing the white line at pit entry, which he was given a five second penalty.

Williams pitted Bottas on lap 27 and a three second stop from the second placed car. He came out behind the pack in 11th place, and behind Sainz. Both Vettel and Raikkonen were told to continue with the team looking at a double podium given the Williams is in traffic.

Bottas overtook Sainz on lap 30 for position, with him being slightly slower than Vettel, and faster than Raikkonen. Vettel pitted on lap 31, but it was a much faster 2.2 second stop for the Ferrari with him coming out a long way ahead of the Williams. Ferrari stopped Raikkonen a lap later. He came out behind his team mate and alongside Bottas, but went wide at the second corner and only just kept his position from Raikkonen.

Mercedes pitted Hamilton from the lead on lap 32. It was a three second pit stop time from the Mercedes guys. Vettel overtook Perez for position, having stopped earlier in the race and now in fifth. Kvyat stopped on lap 34, with another three second stop and came out just ahead of Jenson Button, with Felipe Massa just behind.

Felipe Nasr pitted from third in Sauber after running longer than others. He took on the soft tyre, and came out behind Alonso and Massa. The Williams went down the inside of the McLaren in the process in turn 2. Bottas and Raikkonen had a fight after a small mistake, but the Williams stayed ahead giving breathing room to the Red Bull of Ricciardo.

Massa tried to make a move stick on Kvyat for 8th while lapping the Manor into the second corner. After a few laps, the Williams closed back in on the Red Bull. Perez was told that he needed ‘maximum management’ of the front tyres, with him two seconds clear of the Ricciardo/Bottas fight.

Further back, Massa overtook Kvyat with ten laps of the race remaining. Bottas made a move on Ricciardo using the DRS for 4th, with the Williams driver now able to chase down the Force India for 3rd. Raikkonen also closed in on the back of the Red Bull. Raikkonen went round the outside of Ricciardo at turn 2, but went wide and gave the place back. Sainz spun with a brake failure, falling down the order before spinning off the circuit at turn 13, again. Coming back onto the track, he left debris behind and stopped on lap 47.

Raikkonen and Ricciardo were still battling for 5th place, with Bottas right on the back of Perez. He used the DRS and made the move this time again in the second corner. Daniel Ricciardo also stopped at turn 8, with suspected brake problems, while Raikkonen set the fastest lap of the race. Button in the process was elevated to 10th, with his team mate just a second behind.

With three laps remaining, Perez was still holding Bottas back, with Raikkonen making little of an impression. Hamilton was told that he had a problem with the rear wing, and was advised by the team not to use the DRS. He didn’t make his chance work, with Raikkonen pushing at the back of the group.

Bottas went down the inside at turn 13, with Raikkonen following him losing two places to Williams and Ferrari. Raikkonen was also right on the back of the Williams, although he was just ahead to keep the position into turn 2. They hit though into turn 4 with both of them sustaining damage. Raikkonen continued with Bottas in the wall.

It was announced by the stewards that the incident would look at the incident.

So Hamilton won the race from Vettel and Sergio Perez in third. Felipe Massa came home fourth with Raikkonen in fifth. Kvyat sixth, Nasr seventh, Maldonado eighth, Button ninth and Alonso tenth.

About the author

Ashley Quint

Ashley founded the Purple Sector website back in 2012, later renamed to SpeedMajor which now covers both Formula 1 and Formula E. As well as writing on Formula 1, Ashley also works within the world of luxury travel and was a finalist in the Aspire Travel Trade Writer of the Year competition in 2013.

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