Formula 1

Sochi domination fitting as Mercedes make history

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The inaugural Russian Grand Prix may have lacked action but was a fitting way for Mercedes to claim their first Constructors' crown.

The German carmaker has dominated the 2014 season and on Sunday in Sochi the top five finishers all used the British made power unit.

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Lewis Hamilton moved another step closer to claiming his second world title with an easy lights-to-flag victory as Nico Rosberg's overeagerness cost him at the very first corner.

A tribute to Jules

Going into the weekend Formula 1 arrived at the Black Sea resort very much in a sombre mood following the horrific crash that has left Jules Bianchi in a critical but stable condition in a Japanese hospital.

All the drivers were visibly upset by what had happened to their fellow racer and as a mark of respect wore stickers on their helmets with the phrase "tous avec Jules" or in English 'we are all with Jules'.

His Marussia team's first race in their home country was overshadowed by the events of Suzuka, and they ran with just one car in Sochi as Bianchi's MR03 sat in its place in the garage awaiting the return of its owner.

Before the race on Sunday further tributes were made as the drivers collected in a huddle at the front of the grid to remember Bianchi and on Monday, Lewis Hamilton would dedicate his Sochi win to the Frenchman.

A worthy venue?

A new race and a new venue as the Olympic park that was the centrepiece to the 2014 Winter games in February was converted into a semi-permanent street circuit.

There was some concern heading into the weekend over whether the track layout would excite but, despite a dull race, overall the Sochi Autodrom got a large thumbs up by most in the paddock.

The tricky slow speed corners made for a different kind of challenge to most circuit but a good challenge nonetheless.

Then to give it some uniqueness the incredible left-hander at turn three, which winds its way around the towering Olympic cauldron, offered a challenge like nowhere else.

Comparisons could be made to turn eight in Turkey or the Parabolica at Monza, but this is very much its own corner. Its off camber, never ending and meant to be flat-out throughout and will certainly find its place among the best corners on the calendar.

Lessons for 2015

As a first race it obviously disappointed, but at least the sport will have learnt and can adjust for 2015.

Pirelli, despite coming out saying its not upto them to make races exciting, will likely bring the super-soft and soft tyres for next year as the smooth surface gave up much more grip than expected.

And the FIA will likely alter the DRS zones as the long run to turn two and along the back straight to turn 13 proved largely ineffective.

The beauty with the Olympic park is there is also room to adjust certain parts of the circuit to try and make better racing but as GP2 and GP3 showed the current layout does have promise.

Red Bull teams falter

Despite the dullness there was some stories to come from the race. The biggest disappointments were both Red Bull teams who failed to meet expectations.

For Toro Rosso it was a race that larger flattered to deceive after spending much of the weekend being the quicker of the two Dietrich Mateschitz-owned outfits.

Daniil Kvyat got the local fans hopeful recording a best qualifying result of fifth for his home race, fans held up placards cheering on their 20-year-old driver on the formation lap but when the lights went out the dream fell apart.

After dropping down at the start, Kvyat continued to go backwards and as the fuel hungry STR9 risked running dry as consumption was higher than expected both he and Jean-Eric Vergne had very much a race to forget.

As for the main Red Bull team it seems they must have called it quits on developing the 2014 car.

They fell short of expectations in Suzuka and were only boosted by a wet race and on the straights of Sochi their Renault power unit simply held them back.

Any hopes of Daniel Ricciardo spoiling the Mercedes party are over and on current form may do well to score another podium before the end of the year.

McLaren reborn?

If Red Bull are going backwards then McLaren were a team reborn in Russia this past weekend.

The MP4-29 was easily the third quickest car of the weekend behind the works Mercedes and the slippery Williams but does this mark a return to form for the Woking team in the final races of their Mercedes partnership?

Certainly they took a large jump towards cementing fifth in the Constructors' championship moving 14 points clear of Force India as Vijay Mallya's team scored just the single point in Sochi.

While the characteristics of the street circuit very much suited the car, two similar tracks at Interlagos and Yas Marina remain so yes I think before they say goodbye to the Silver Arrow and hello to Honda for 2015, I'd expect to see McLaren enjoy a little more success before the end of the year.

Mercedes reach their goal

But the weekend and the year continues to belong to Mercedes, Sochi saw them finally sew up the Constructors' title, the main aim for Toto Wolff and his team this year.

Interestingly their triumph sees the title return to the same Brackley factory that Brawn GP used in 2009 after Honda pulled out the year before and also ends Red Bull's reign as champions, something they have done since 2010.

Certainly its a perfect reward for four years of investment and development into the V6 power unit and other new regulations for 2014 and given their current advantage it could be a period of success that continues for some time.

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