Formula 1

Mercedes retain Constructors' Championship in Russia despite Rosberg retirement

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After a race which saw seven retirements, Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory in the 2015 Russian Grand Prix, taking Mercedes to their second consecutive Constructors' Championship despite Nico Rosberg retiring early on.

This weekend was full of thrills and spills both in the support races and in the F1 practice sessions and the Grand Prix itself continued that trend.

After Carlos Sainz was airlifted to hospital following a spectacular crash which saw his Toro Rosso dive beneath the Tecpro barrier, there were questions asked about the safety of F1 cars and whether Sainz would be able to take place in the race, but the Spaniard was discharged from hospital and given a clean bill of health meaning he would be able to start the race from the back of the grid.

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Fernando Alonso had acquired a 35 place grid penalty for using an upgraded engine for the race, once again exceeding McLaren-Honda's quota of four engines across a season, so he started from nineteenth behind the Manor cars.

The first lap was as action-packed as last year, although this time the action didn't involve the two Mercedes who both started very well, holding their original positions. As Nico Hulkenberg braked into the second corner he locked his rear tyres, spinning back towards the middle of the track as he hit the artificial grass on the inside of turn two.

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As a result, Max Verstappen managed to pick up a left-rear puncture causing him to drop to the back of the grid as he limped back to the pits. Marcus Ericsson attempted to get a good exit from turn two, but as Hulkenberg span he ran over the left-rear tyre of the German, thus ending both drivers' races, leaving only one Force India and one Sauber in the race. As a result, the safety car was deployed, which saw several drivers come into the pits.

Fireworks were expected from the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after last year's Russian Grand Prix, but despite the German having been incredibly strong throughout the weekend, the Mercedes fight failed to live up to expectations as Nico Rosberg retired on lap seven as a result of a mechanical throttle issue.

Rosberg had been complaining for a few laps as his throttle was sticking open and lost places to several drivers. According to team principle Toto Wolff, this was as a result of a piece of metal coming loose, or a rubber seal breaking.

After this, the race ran fairly smoothly for a few laps with good racing between the two Ferraris and the McLarens were also battling well; though Fernando Alonso's engine upgrade didn't make much of an impression, with Jenson Button leading for most of the race.

After five laps of retirement-free racing, Romain Grosjean lost control of his car in the dirty air of Jenson Button's McLaren, sending the Frenchman's Lotus spinning into the wall at high speed on the sweeping left-hander at turn three. As he lost control of the car, he attempted to correct the spin, but found grip shortly after, sending him towards the Tecpro barrier, which absorbed the majority of the impact.

However, the Frenchman's car was forced to retire as the rear had been almost entirely destroyed in the impact. Once again the safety car was brought out, this time until lap seventeen.

Lewis Hamilton continued to drive well, building up a seven-second gap over Bottas in the Williams after only seven laps of racing after the safety car had returned to the pits. By lap 31, Vettel had managed to undercut Bottas, who had been struggling with tyre degradation, and took second place where he would remain for the rest of the race.

There was little to talk about for quite some time, Sergio Perez having drove a quietly confident race, holding third position well. He stopped on lap 13 for the soft compound tyre, and the Mexican found himself struggling with tyre wear for the rest of the race, quickly being caught by Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Bottas. 

The battle between Perez, Raikkonen and Bottas dominated the coverage of the race for the last few laps, as Bottas on fresh tyres fought hard to make it past the Force India of Perez. On the penultimate lap both Bottas and Raikkonen found a way past  Perez, but the joy was short-lived as Raikkonen's last minute lunge from a long way back under braking saw the two Finns collide forcing Bottas to retire and leaving Raikkonen in fifth, with Perez retaking third.

As a result, the stewards awarded Raikkonen a 30 second time penalty retrospectively, moving him down to eighth position, which meant despite Nico Rosberg's retirement Mercedes had won the 2015 Formula One Constructors' Championship for the second year in a row in Sochi.

Fernando Alonso was also awarded a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits, which saw him demoted to eleventh place, behind Max Verstappen, with Jenson Button the only McLaren to score points in ninth position.

Second place finisher Sebastian Vettel took second place in the Drivers' Championship, leaving him 66 points behind Lewis Hamilton, with Nico Rosberg third in the Championship 73 points behind the Briton. Surely Hamilton is now unassailable?

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