In a season of domination, Mercedes championship winning race was an inevitability. Going into the Russian Grand Prix the Silver Arrows team just needed 25 points to clinch the constructors championship with three races remaining. And with yet another 1-2 – their ninth of the season – Mercedes won their first constructors championship in some style.
Lewis Hamilton lined up on pole position with team-mate Nico Rosberg alongside him for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. When the lights went out Hamilton got the better initial start but with the help of a slipstream Rosberg passed him on the run to Turn 2. He locked up and straight lined the corner, soon being asked by the team to give the position back to Hamilton. The lock-up also badly flat spotted his tyres and forced his hand, meaning he had to pit for new tyres after just one lap and faced the unfavourable task of making them last to the end of the race. Felipe Massa – who had a disappointing qualifying session and started 18th – also pitted at the end of the first lap but could not eke his tyres out the full 53 laps. Rosberg put in an impressive drive to fight from the back of the pack to finish second – just 13 seconds off his team-mate. The Mercedes duo were joined on the podium by Valtteri Bottas with the Finn taking his fifth podium of the year and first fastest lap.
McLaren impressed on Friday in Free Practice and, having started fourth and eleventh, put in a strong race performance as well. Kevin Magnussen – who originally qualified in sixth but dropped to eleventh due to a gearbox penalty – enjoyed some early battles with the Toro Rosso drivers as he progressed into the top ten, and leap-frogged Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the pit-stop phase. Jenson Button ran in the podium positions early on but the McLaren duos eventual finishing positions were fourth and fifth. It was the team’s best collective performance since the Australian Grand Prix where they were classified second and third. The result and the fact that Sergio Perez was Force India’s sole representative in the points meant that McLaren jumped ahead of their rivals in the constructors championship, now leading them by 20 points. Button revealed post race that McLaren have genuinely made a step forward and it wasn’t all circuit specific and he believes that, although it is unlikely, there is a chance they could close the 45 point gap to Ferrari in the championship.
Ferrari’s race was not one to write home about with Alonso finishing sixth. He had a slow pit-stop which cost him about five seconds but his eventual finishing time behind Magnussen was seven seconds. Kimi Raikkonen had a quiet race and finished in ninth place. Mercedes’ distant rivals and reigning world champions Red Bull also had a quiet afternoon, finishing seventh and eighth with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Perez finished tenth for Force India after nursing a “critical fuel situation” for the latter stages of the race.
Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil had a coming together and Grosjean was given a 5 second stop/go penalty for causing a collision after Sutil was sent into a spin. The Sauber driver was able to continue but both he and Esteban Gutierrez were both once again outside the points. Local hero Daniil Kvyat – who qualified an impressive fifth – was hampered (along with team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne) by the need for extreme fuel saving. Marcus Ericsson was the final classified finisher in 19th place, two laps down and behind Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. The sole Marussia of Max Chilton failed to finish the race, having to retire after nine laps while Kamui Kobayashi was also forced to retire. He revealed that he did not know why he had been asked to retire but had just been told to box.
There is now three weeks before the next round of the 2014 Formula One world championship. Hamilton now has a 17 point lead over Rosberg and there are just three races left, but the last carries double points.