Nico Rosberg stormed to his fourth victory of the 2016 F1 World Championship at the Sochi Autodrom as he dominated the Russian Grand Prix in his Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas, writes James Beckett.
The German cruised to victory at the Black Sea circuit to record his seventh straight race win and take his tally to 100 points for the season, 43 clear of nearest rival, team-mate and defending champion Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton encountered more problems in Russia which meant he only lined up 10th on the grid, however the Briton safely negotiated a chaotic opening stint and worked his way up to second.
Rosberg, who was presented with his winner’s trophy by Russian President Vladimir Putin afterwards, said: “This was another great weekend for me. I really enjoyed my Russian weekend, this is a great place to visit and I really enjoy this track.
“It offers a good challenge, and despite some concerns we might not be as competitive here this weekend, we managed to win and the team scored a one-two.
“We head back to Europe for the traditional part of the season, and Barcelona is next. My aim is to keep driving to the best of my ability and see where it takes me. There is so long to go this season, anything is possible!”
A visibly disappointed Hamilton added: “I didn’t have the best of races, but saying that to finish second when qualifying didn’t go so well was a major boost.
“A long championship requires point-scoring finishes, and I have to remind myself of that. I need points to keep as close to Rosberg as possible. We know the championship has hardly started.”
An early collision between Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was the talk of the race and has since resulted in severe repercussions for the young Russian.
On Thursday, it was announced that Kvyat will return to Toro Rosso and be replaced at Red Bull by Max Verstappen, who leaves the part Bicester based team.
Verstappen impressed again in Russia but engine failre forced him to retire, while now former team-mate Carlos Sainz took 12th.
Sainz said: “This was a hard race for me. I suffered a bad crash here at Sochi last year, and I was keen to repay the support and kindness from the Russian organisers with a good display.
“Sadly I couldn’t score championship points, but I think I can go well at the next race which is my home Grand Prix in Barcelona.”
For Silverstone’s Sahara Force India, Sergio Perez scooped his first points of the year by finishing ninth.
The Mexican racer said: “This was still a difficult race for me and the team, but I am very happy to have at last scored my first points of the campaign. F1 is very tough this year and to make good progress is very difficult.
“For me, I just wanted to be able to score points. Finishing ninth was OK, I would have liked to finish higher but I now have that aim for the future races.”
Nico Hulkenberg, driving the second Force India, was an early race retirement.
Points after round 4: 1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 100; 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 57; 3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 43; 4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 36; 5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 33; 6. Felipe Massa (Williams) 32. Next race: May 15 – Spain.