Nico Rosberg takes winning streak to seven

Championship leader Nico Rosberg extended his incredible winning streak to seven races with a comfortable lights-to-flag victory at the Russian Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg takes winning streak to seven

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 Sunday’s race, Hamilton insisted 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 team-mate.

A herculean effort from Hamilton’s Mercedes team, who flew parts from their Brixworth base on a chartered jet to Sochi, ensured the Briton started from 10th rather than the pit lane under Formula One’s complicated engine rules. It also afforded Hamilton a bird’s eye view of the mayhem which was to unfold at turn two on the opening lap.

While Rosberg, starting from pole, easily retained his lead, Sebastian Vettel’s race was over before it started. Vettel, starting in seventh after a grid penalty, labelled Daniil Kvyat as a “mad man” in a face-to-face exchange at the previous race in China, and here, 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. For f*** sake! 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 allow a clean-up and in avoiding the first-lap chaos — which also ended Nico Hulkenberg’s race and saw his Force India team-mate 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 team-mate. 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.

Elsewhere, Bottas and Massa finished fourth and fifth for Williams, while both McLaren drivers finished in the points for the first time since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso was sixth with Jenson Button passing Carlos Sainz in the closing stages to finish 10th. Briton’s Jolyon Palmer was 13th for Renault.

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