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05/02 2016

Nico Rosberg and Mercedes win in Russia for fourth F1 victory in a row AUTOWEEK

Nico Rosberg and Mercedes win in Russia for fourth F1 victory in a row

Nico Rosberg won the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday. It was his fourth victory of the season.PHOTO BY LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC

MERCEDES FLEXES MUSCLES AS LEWIS HAMILTON CLIMBS TO SECOND PLACE

Nico Rosberg scored his fourth win in four Formula One starts in 2016 with a comfortable victory in the Russian Grand Prix. Teammate Lewis Hamilton was able to minimize the damage to his title hopes by securing second place on a day when things could have been much worse for him. The gap between the pair is now 43 points.
After his MGU-H failure in Q2, Hamilton started from 10th place with a combination of an older engine refitted, plus new turbo, energy store and other ancillaries. None of the changes generated a grid penalty, so he kept the place that he’d earned.
It looked like he might have a difficult time working his way through to the front, but his life was made easier by more first-lap mayhem. In Sochi, turn one is just a kink, so the action usually starts at the tight right-hander of turn two, and that’s exactly what happened.
Incredibly, it involved the same drivers as in China, as Daniil Kvyat locked up and ran hard into Sebastian Vettel, sending the German into Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel kept going, but seconds later, Kvyat hit him again, and sent him hard into the tire wall at turn three. Amid all the chaos, Hamilton jumped up to fifth.
A virtual safety car emerged, but Vettel was out of the race and both of the Red Bull drivers had to pit for new noses. Also retired after contact further back were Nico Hulkenberg and Rio Haryanto. Kyvat subsequently received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for hitting Vettel.
After three laps of virtual safety car, the race resumed with Rosberg ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Hamilton. The two Finnish drivers changed places immediately after the restart, while Hamilton also got past Massa to claim fourth.
As Rosberg continued to streak away out front, Hamilton then got by Raikkonen for third, but his progress stopped when he got on the tail of Bottas, who had the pace to keep the works Mercedes behind.
This was always going to be a one-stop race with limited strategy variations, and the battle for second came to a head when Bottas pitted on lap 16. Hamilton came in a lap later and lost a crucial half-second in his stop. He accelerated out of the pit lane just ahead of Bottas, but the Finn had the racing line and the momentum to slip by and reclaim second.
However, a couple of laps later, Hamilton made a clean move and gained the place anyway. Bottas then lost another spot to Raikkonen when the Ferrari driver pitted and got out ahead of the Williams.
So with a little over 30 of the 53 laps to go we had Rosberg some 12-13 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with Raikkonen, Bottas and Massa behind, with everyone now on the soft tires and not planning to pit. There seemed to be little prospect of much changing, but when Rosberg hit traffic Hamilton began to edge closer, getting to within 7.5 seconds on lap 36.
It looked like it might be game on, but with a clear track, Rosberg responded by setting fastest lap — and at around the same time, Hamilton was warned that he had water pressure problems. His lap times slowed, and the gap began to open up again until the pressure problem stabilized. Any chance of a fight for the lead was gone.
The rest of the race duly played out without drama, with Lewis allowing the gap to extend, and Raikkonen claiming the final podium spot behind the Mercedes duo. The Williams pair of Bottas and Massa took fourth and fifth, while Fernando Alonso did a good job for McLaren to claim sixth, and his first points of the year. Kevin Magnussen gave the re-badged Renault team its first 2016 points with seventh, while Romain Grosjean scored for the third time in four races with eighth.
Results
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:32:41.997
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +25.022.s
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +31.998s
4. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, +50.217s
5. Felipe Massa, Williams, +74.427s
6. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, +1 lap
7. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, +1 lap
8. Romain Grosjean, Haas, +1 lap
9. Sergio Perez, Force India, +1 lap
10. Jenson Button, McLaren, +1 lap
11. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing, +1 lap
12. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, +1 lap
13. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, +1 lap
14. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +1 lap
15. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing, +1 lap
16. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +1 lap
17. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, +1 lap
18. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, +2 laps
19. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, DNF
20. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, DNF
21. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, DNF
22. Rio Haryanto, Manor, DNF