Rosberg gets seventh straight win on dramatic day at Sochi
Rosberg extends winning streak to seven as Hamilton battles to finish second
Championship leader Nico Rosberg extended his incredible winning streak to seven races with a comfortable lights-to-flag victory at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi yesterday.
Rosberg's lead was never threatened as Lewis Hamilton, helped in part by a chaotic first lap, recovered from his engine failure in qualifying to finish second, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen completing the podium places.
In the build-up to yesterday's race, Hamilton insisted that he could not lose any further ground to Rosberg, but the Briton will now head to the Spanish Grand Prix in a fortnight's time 43 points adrift of his Mercedes teammate.
A herculean effort from Hamilton's Mercedes team, who flew replacement parts from their Brixworth base on a chartered jet to Sochi, ensured the Briton started from 10th rather than the pit lane under Formula 1's complicated engine rules.
It also afforded Hamilton a bird's-eye view of the mayhem which was to unfold at turn two of the opening lap.
While Rosberg, starting from pole, easily retained his lead, Sebastian Vettel's race was over before it started.
The German, starting in seventh after a grid penalty, labelled Daniil Kvyat a "mad man" in a toe-curling face-to-face exchange at the previous race in China and, yesterday, the two men were at it again.
Kvyat, the home favourite, thumped into the back of Vettel at turn two before crashing into him again moments later.
The force of the impact sent Vettel spinning into the wall before the German launched an extraordinary expletive-fuelled rant over the team radio, broadcast to the millions of viewers watching around the world.
Waving his hands in the air, Vettel blasted: "Who the f***? Ahh, I'm out. Crashed! Somebody hit me in the f****** rear at turn two, and then somebody hit me in the f****** rear again in turn three. Honestly. What the f*** are we doing here?"
Vettel hopped on a bike back to the paddock, and it was not long before he paid a visit to his former employers, exchanging words with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on the team's pit wall. Kvyat was dealt a 10-second-stop-and-go penalty for his part in the incidents.
A virtual safety car was then deployed to clean up Vettel's Ferrari and, in avoiding the first-lap chaos - which also ended Nico Hulkenberg's race and saw his Force India teammate Sergio Perez sustain a puncture - Hamilton had moved up to fifth.
By the end of lap four, he eased past the Williams of Felipe Massa for fourth before overtaking the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen three laps later.
Up next for Hamilton was Valtteri Bottas, but the Briton had to wait until the first, and only round of pit- stops, before getting his man.
Bottas emerged ahead of Hamilton after both drivers stopped for a change of rubber, but Hamilton made no mistake in passing Bottas on the following lap at turn one.
When Rosberg stopped for a fresh set of tyres at the end of lap 21, Hamilton was 13 seconds adrift of his teammate.
The triple world champion then began the improbable pursuit of reeling the sister Mercedes back in.
With 16 laps remaining, he had got the gap down to a little over seven seconds before he was informed of a water pressure issue.
That is where Hamilton's charge ended and, when he crossed the line, he was 25 seconds behind Rosberg.
"There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I couldn't win it, but then I had a problem with the engine again, so I had to back off," said Hamilton.
"I wasn't at full throttle down the straights, I was just trying to look after it."
Rosberg, who is now only the fourth driver in the sport's history to win the opening four rounds, added: "Lewis is going to come back of course.
"He is on it and as motivated as ever, so it's early days. I am just taking it race by race. We have an incredible car which really is a pleasure to drive."
- PA Sport.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 wins: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg has won the last seven grands prix, including the first four of the 2016 season.
Results and standings
RUSSIAN GP RESULTS (TOP 5)
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:32:41.997
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)+00:25.022
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 00:31.998
4. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 00:50.217
5. Felipe Massa (Williams) 01:14.427
DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP (TOP 5)
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 100 pts
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 57
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 43
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 36
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 33
CONSTRUCTORS' STANDINGS (TOP 3)
1. Mercedes 157 pts
2. Ferrari 76
3. Red Bull 57.