The Russian Grand Prix would be one of those interesting races, with once again a couple of cars out of position at the start – Sebastian Vettel starting seventh after a gearbox change and Lewis Hamilton in tenth after his reoccurrence of an engine problem made him sit out Q3.
Unlike China, the top ten were locked into the super soft tyre, but with tyre degradation low one stopping is on the cards. Only Hulkenberg, Gutierrez and Ericsson would start on the soft compound tyre. Hulkenberg, along way behind his team mate Perez, who starts 6th.
With the lights going out it was a really good start from The Mercedes at the front. Bottas remained second until the first corner which Kimi overtook. Carnage at turn two saw Sebastian Vettel in the wall later round in turn 3, with a number of cars including Nico Hulkenberg. Dany Kvyat was the driver who hit the Ferrari. While the Virtual Safety Car was deployed, Perez also had a puncture, while Kvyat also pitted for a front wing.
Ricciardo also pitted for Red Bull, waiting for the Russian with both of the drivers taking the Medium tyres. Gutierrez pitted for a new front wing at Haas.
The order at the front of the field was Rosberg, Raikkonen, Bottas, Massa, Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso and Grosjean. Magnussen and Palmer rounded out the top ten for Renault.
The safety car came in at the end of lap 3, Rosberg leading the field away. Bottas went down the inside of Raikkonen at turn two, with Hamilton going ahead of Massa at the same corner. Massa was then under pressure from Verstappen. Alonso wasn’t that far behind either in the McLaren. Rosberg had a three second lead by the end of the first lap after the safety car.
Dany Kvyat was overtaken by Ericsson in the second corner, while he tried to hang on around the outside of the Swede, although he gave the place back, he got back ahead later in the lap.
Raikkonen got close to the back of Bottas at turn 2 on lap 7, although he lost time and that allowed Hamilton to overtake for a third place move on the Ferrari. At the back of the field, Kvyat was still struggling on the mediums and lost a place to Perez and Ericsson.
Hamilton couldn’t get ahead of the Williams, with Raikkonen keeping a watching brief behind the Mercedes. For each lap going past, Hamilton was loosing time to Rosberg. Behind, Jenson was battling with Carlos Sainz – the Spaniard pitting on lap 12 and the first of the scheduled pit stops. The Toro Rosso taking a set of the soft compound tyre. Rosberg though was still setting the fastest lap of the race, and building his lead at he front.
Nasr pitted on lap 13 as he was advised that he had a slow puncture – Hamilton fell back slightly from the Williams, with the Ferrari dropping back as well from the Mercedes. The gap from Hamilton to Rosberg now ten seconds after 13 laps.
Palmer pitted from the lower end of the top ten on lap 15, taking a set of the soft tyre in Renault – they were the big winners of the first lap accident. Lewis was back on the attack though, getting straight on the rear of Bottas again and was taking Raikkonen with him.
Bottas was the first to blink at the front, stopping on lap 17. Soft compound tyres for the Williams driver and another sub three second stop for the Finn. He came out just ahead of Grosjean. Magnussen pitted the same lap for Renault.
Hamilton pitted on lap 18 for his pit stop, Raikkonen stayed out in the Ferrari. A set of soft tyres for the Mercedes driver, but a slower stop than the Williams. Side by side into turn two, but Bottas stayed ahead of the Mercedes. The pair of them were behind a non-stopping McLaren of Alonso. Massa pitted for the soft tyre on lap 19, a 2.3 second stop from Williams.
Hamilton overtook Bottas into turn 2 on lap 19, the Williams driver tried to hang on around turn 3, but was pushed out onto the marbles. The Mercedes driver instantly got on the back of Alonso who wouldn’t be getting blue flags. It was an easy pass though for Hamilton.
In clear air, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on the soft tyres, instantly making a gap to the Williams who was now stuck behind the McLaren.
Raikkonen pitted a lot later, with Bottas also passing Alonso. It was a slow getaway from Raikkonen, with a 2.4 second stop from the Ferrari crew. The Ferrari got ahead of the Williams in the pitstop process. Button stopped on the same lap in the McLaren.
Rosberg pitted a lap later in the leading Mercedes. He took a set of the soft tyres, with another sub-three second stop. It promoted a non-stopping Verstappen to second in the Toro Rosso, Hamilton was closing in quickly though. He stopped at the end of lap 23 though, releasing the Mercedes driver once again.
After his pitstop, Alonso overtook Ericsson for eighth place on lap 25, with Lewis Hamilton now setting consecutive fastest laps in second. He would need nearly half a second per lap though to get on terms with his team mate. Ricciardo was in tenth, but was being attacked by Magnussen. Sainz was also investigated for forcing Palmer off the track at the exit of turn 2. The Spaniard would get a ten second time penalty for the move.
Ricciardo went down the inside of Magnussen for eighth place at turn two, with Magnussen keeping the place. Grosjean got ahead of Ricciardo, with Sainz also getting involved in 11th place. Nasr got a five second penalty for not observing the turn 2 regulations.
Ricciardo pitted from that group, the Australian changing from the Medium to the soft tyre. After the Red Bull pitted, Sainz also got ahead of Perez and into the points. Perez got ahead of Sainz on lap 31 in the second corner, with Sainz keeping an inside line. He was quick on the exit, but the Mexican remained in front. Ricciardo overtook his team mate for 15th.
At the front, the gap between Rosberg and Hamilton was closing – the German getting held up slightly with traffic. Max Verstappen stopped on lap 34 in the Toro Rosso, after there were concerns at the start, puling over on the exit of turn two. It would promote Fernando Alonso to sixth place.
The race at the lower end of the top ten was also interesting – Magnussen in 7th, with Grosjean, Perez, Sainz and Button in 11th. Hamilton was told over the radio that there was a water pressure issue, the Briton still closing in on his teammate. For once in a while, Rosberg set the fastest lap of the race, a new lap record.
Wehrlein stopped for a set of the super soft tyres, a very long stop at Manor with them not able to get the left rear tyre off. So long -it was 27 seconds. After slowing, Hamilton was told over the radio that the ‘situation had stabilised’. Wehrlein came out in the group at the lower end of the top ten, although he got out the way of them all in turn 3.
Massa pitted from fifth, taking on the super soft tyre – a late pitstop on lap 47 for the Williams driver, but able to get out in the same place with nobody close behind him. Fernando Alonso the next car back.
In that battle at the bottom end of the top ten. Perez was closing in on Grosjean, while Sainz was being caught by Button. Both Perez and Grosjean were closing in on Magnussen, while Sainz locked his brakes at the end of the lap, with Button getting ahead of the Spaniard.
Despite trying to set the fastest lap of the race, Felipe Massa was still outpaced by Nico Rosberg – setting a further fastest lap. Nothing could stop the German though, seven race wins in a row cementing his claim for the World Championship, with Lewis Hamilton coming home second and Kimi Raikkonen coming home in third for Ferrari. Fourth for Bottas and fifth for Massa in the two Williams’, and Fernando Alonso coming home in an amazing sixth. A quite incredible seventh for the Renault of Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean in eighth, Perez ninth and Jenson Button rounding out the top ten – and a double points finish for McLaren.