Lewis Hamilton made the 2015 Formula 1 drivers’ title all but his on Sunday in Russia by claiming his ninth win of the season and extending his championship lead to 66 points.
Upon arrival in Sochi, few doubted that Hamilton would be denied a third championship in 2015, and the events of the weekend made this truer still. Barring what would be the most remarkable turn of events in the history of any sport, let alone F1, the Briton will win the title once again this year.
The Russian Grand Prix weekend had started in very different circumstances, though. After losing most of practice due to a diesel spill, rain and a crash for Carlos Sainz Jr. that left the barriers in need of repairs, all of the drivers – Hamilton included – entered qualifying uncertain of what to expect.
So when Nico Rosberg charged to his third pole position of the season and managed to retain his lead on the run down to the first corner on Sunday, Hamilton looked to have been put in a corner. The Briton had not matched his fierce title rival and teammate over the weekend, giving Rosberg the chance to cut the gap at the top of the standings to just 41 points.
However, for the third time in four races, reliability woes blighted Mercedes’ hopes of a one-two finish. When Rosberg reported that his throttle wasn’t working properly, concerned looks on the Mercedes pit wall said it all. His car lasted just one more lap before crawling to a halt in the pits, ending Rosberg’s race and, all but mathematically, his faint title hopes.
For Hamilton, it was a stroke of luck that looks set to only speed up his coronation as a three-time F1 world champion. Without Rosberg to duel with at the front, the Briton eased to his ninth victory of the season ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Force India driver Sergio Perez, and can now wrap up the championship next time out in Austin, Texas at the United States Grand Prix.
This was far from being vintage Hamilton, nor vintage F1 for that matter. However, we were offered an entertaining race that did change the rather torpid first impression the Sochi Autodrom had made in 2015. Throughout the field, there were some great battles, including a particularly close fight for third between Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas that ended in a crash on the last lap of the race. Neither were impressed, but the stewards blamed Raikkonen for causing a collision and handed him a penalty that left him eighth in the final classification.
As mentioned earlier, Sainz’s crash on Saturday caused a long delay in practice, such as the ferocity of the Spaniard’s accident. However, he was remarkably unhurt from the 46G impact, and after being discharged from hospital on Saturday night was back for the race less than 24 hours later. Had it not been for a brake failure, points would surely have been on the cards for Sainz. Nevertheless, he proved his mettle to the watching F1 world in Sochi.
The title is now all but Hamilton’s, but there is still plenty to play for ahead of the United States Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
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