Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG Petronas began an eventful race in P2 with teammate Nico Rosberg on pole. The Briton seized the lead from his teammate early on, but in a race that saw several ups and downs, he lost it successively to Rosberg and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Even a bit over halfway through the race, polesitter Rosberg had regained his lost lead and looked to still be in the running for the win, but would eventually lose out. The German, who had been in strong running behind teammate Hamilton for the championship title most of the year, lost out after beginning the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi in pole position but being forced to retire after a sticky throttle made racing dangerous.
Rosberg has been racing strongly all year, with a third consecutive pole position today after qualifying on top at Suzuka in Japan and most recently at Sochi. He has been a constant fixture on the podium for most of the year alongside his teammate, with retirements and a lack of race wins leading to his eventual loss of the title.
Following several days of rain, which caused a cancellation of FP3 and of the third qualifying session, the race itself was rain free, although the track was significantly wet, with several drivers expressing their concern prior to the race; Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were among two of the most prominent, and both would go on to retire tonight.
A whopping 8 drivers retired from the race today; Will Stevens of Manor was the first to go, and was followed only a few laps later by Valtteri Bottas of Williams, who suffered a rear suspension failure. Bottas had been due for a podium at Sochi before being shunted by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, so the younger Finn has had a disappointing few races after several strong performances this year.
Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa joined him in the list of retirees, as did Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, who later tweeted that he had been “pissed off” but would “come back strong” ahead of Mexico.
Also retiring with them was Raikkonen himself. The otherwise unemotional Finn was uncharacteristically animated all through qualifying and the race, expressing serious discomfort with the rain in qualifying, and anger during the race.
Towards the latter half of the race, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg attempted to take on the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, spinning wide of the track and losing out in a minor shunt that left both drivers with damage, but the “Hulk” with damage serious enough that he was unable to continue racing.
Ferrari almost missed out on a podium spot today, with young Max Verstappen of Scuderia Toro Rosso putting in a blinder of a race combined with what would be some very effective pit strategy to move up the grid quickly and hold on to podium hopes for a while. The teen had qualified in P8 behind Massa’s Williams and ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Funnily enough, however, as the youngster has only just turned 18, he may not have been able to drink the winners’ champagne on the podium. (Texas’ legal age is 21!)
McLaren’s Alonso was called in for a tyre change by the team near the end of the race, and was heard complaining on the radio that he would “come in if there are no points.” The 2-time World Champion qualified in 9th, but ended today’s race just outside the points in P11 behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who at one point even led the race.
This victory, which was Hamilton’s second consecutive one at the track, takes the Briton to his second consecutive World Championship title and his third overall; he first took it in 2008, beating Ferrari’s Felipe Massa by a single point that year.