Lewis Hamilton won his seventh pole of the season, beating out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg who made his eighth straight front-row start. The team needed just 25 points to clinch its first manufacturers’ championship with four races to go. Hamilton led Rosberg by 10 points coming into the race and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) by 73. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) lined up third on the grid, with Jenson Button (McLaren) next door.
The 3.6-mile Sochi Autodrom, laid out through much of former seaside Olympic park, debuted as the third longest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar behind Spa-Franchochamps (4.4 miles) and Silverstone (3.7 miles). Most drivers were expected to use a one-stop strategy, with overtaking likely difficult.
Rosberg made it past Hamilton going through Turn 2 of the first lap, but ran wide in the process. His team advised him to give the position back, with Rosberg responding that he had to pit due to vibrations following a hard brake lockup at the end of his passing maneuver. Fernando Alonso moved from P7 to third.
Hamilton led Bottas and Button during Lap 2, with Mercedes informing Rosberg that they’d like him to go to the end (Lap 53) on his new set of tires, trading soft for medium. Williams voluntarily initiated a similar strategy with Felipe Massa, bringing him in and putting on a set of soft option tires after starting on the medium primes. Massa set fastest lap on Lap 4.
Hamilton’s gap over Bottas stood at 3.5 sec after 13 laps, with another 13 between Bottas and Button, who Alonso was slowly reeling in. Button pitted from this on Lap 23. Hamilton pitted from the lead 5 laps later, and lap after Bottas. He retook the track in front of Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), who had yet to pit, and Bottas. Rosberg meanwhile had risen to P4.
Vettel stopped during Lap 31, with Rosberg passing Bottas for P2 at the same time, running 19 sec behind Hamilton. Rosberg set two consecutive fast laps on 33 and 34. He stretched the gap to Bottas out to 6 sec, but was also instructed to switch to “Plan B,” perhaps indicating another stop would be needed after all.
With 8 laps to go Hamilton’s lead was 19 sec. Bottas was trying to close on Rosberg, but the gap remained 5.3 sec during Lap 47.
Hamilton remained in front to the finish to take the win, followed by Rosberg and Bottas. Massa finished P11 after starting P18
Hamilton’s victory tied him at 31 with Nigel Mansell as the all-time winningest British Formula 1 driver. Bottas’ P3 boosted him past Vettel and Alonso into fourth in the drivers’ championship. McLaren passed Force India for fifth in the constructors’ chase with Button finishing P4 and Kevin Magnussen and P6. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) finished fifth in his home Grand Prix.
Driver standings (Top 10)
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain), Mercedes – 291
Nico Rosberg (Germany), Mercedes – 274
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull-Renault – 199
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Williams-Mercedes – 145
Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Red Bull-Renault - 143
Fernando Alonso (Spain), Ferrari – 141
Jenson Button (Great Britain), McLaren-Mercedes – 94
Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), Force India-Mercedes – 76
Felipe Massa (Brazil), Williams-Mercedes – 71
Kevin Magnussen (Denmark), McLaren-Mercedes - 49
Team standings (teams earning points)
Mercedes (Rosberg, Hamilton) – 565
Red Bull Racing-Renault (Vettel, Ricciardo) – 342
Williams-Mercedes (Bottas, Massa) – 215
Ferrari (Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen) – 188
McLaren-Mercedes (Magnussen, Button) – 143
Force India-Mercedes (Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez) – 123
STR-Renault (Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniil Kvyat) – 29
Lotus-Renault (Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado) – 8
Marussia-Ferrari (Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton) – 2
Next event: United States Grand Prix (Circuit of the Americas) – Oct. 31-Nov. 2