Kurt Verlin
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2015 Russian Grand Prix Recap: Mercedes Wins Constructors Title

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2015 Russian Grand Prix podium.

They look less cheerful than usual. Maybe it’s Putin?

Well, nobody was expecting anything different, really. Mercedes arrived at Sochi for the 2015 Russian Grand Prix with the opportunity to secure the Constructors Championship with four races to go. All they needed to do was score 3 or more points than Ferrari—not a big ask given their performance this year. Coincidentally, they met the requirement by exactly that amount.

Rosberg’s pace was stellar throughout the weekend. He topped all three practice sessions and then out-qualified Hamilton to get pole by a relatively large margin. Bottas started behind them, just ahead of Vettel and Räikkönen.

Rosberg wasn’t about to let Suzuka happen twice, though. He held on at the start, keeping a ferocious Hamilton at bay and staying in the lead, but their fight quickly came to a halt as the safety car was called out in response to a crash between Hulkenberg and Ericsson.

Hulkenberg and Ericsson crash.

Hulkenberg and Ericsson’s crash looks like they tried to pull over to have a chat.

Unfortunately, the race wasn’t back on for Rosberg when the safety car finally left the track. He complained about his throttle pedal “sticking,” later revealed to be caused by a damper problem, which prevented him from properly braking, accelerating, and even cornering. Hamilton made quick work of him and as the problem got worse, Rosberg was forced to retire. The Brit easily won the race and Rosberg’s already-dwindling championship hopes were dashed almost completely.

In fact, he’s not even 2nd in the championship anymore. After battling his teammate, Vettel got past Bottas with a series of quick laps when the latter dove into the pits, and in part thanks to Ferrari’s blistering-fast stops that afternoon. Vettel finished 2nd, scoring enough points to slip into the same place in the overall Drivers Championship, knocking Rosberg down to 3rd.

The final spot on the podium was customarily the most contested. Bottas and Räikkönen had been the original contenders for the spot, but a different tire strategy put Perez and Ricciardo ahead of them—and the latter proved incredibly difficult to pass. With just 7 laps to go, Bottas finally managed to get it done, and Räikkönen did the same 2 laps later. By that point, Bottas has caught up to Perez. In the time it took him to overtake, the Iceman closed down the 3 second gap. The two of them passed Perez simultaneously on the penultimate lap, with just each other left to battle for 3rd place, Finn versus Finn.

But after what had been an otherwise phenomenal race, Räikkönen made a big mistake, going for a deep but misjudged braking move and colliding with his fellow countryman. What’s worse, Bottas was forced to retire, while Räikkönen limped home to take 5th place, though a 30-second penalty for the move dropped him to 8th. That meant Ferrari only scored 22 points to Mercedes’ 25, giving the latter the Constructors Championship.

Bottas and Räikkönen collide.

Räikkönen punts Bottas toward the wall.

It also allowed Perez to score 3rd place, marking his and Force India’s first podium since the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix. Finishing 4th was Massa, who had started from 15th and made good use of a smart tire strategy to gain as much ground as possible. Kvyat scored a good 5th place for his home crowd, followed by Nasr, Maldonado, Button, and Verstappen.

Alonso would have gotten McLaren a double-points finish, but he was too busy being cheeky on the radio to remember to pay attention to track limits and got slapped with a five-second penalty for exceeding them.

The rest of the field, excepting Mehri and Stevens in the Marussias, joined Hulkenberg and Ericson in retirement. Grosjean walked out of a spectacular-looking crash, Sainz retired because of a brake failure, and Ricciardo because of a suspension problem.

That leaves just four races to go this championship, and Vettel’s chances at winning the whole thing somehow seem better than Rosberg’s—though I doubt we’ll see either of them beating Hamilton. Vettel simply doesn’t have the car and Rosberg seems to run into reliability issues every time he looks capable of beating Hamilton on the track—which isn’t that often.

Put on your boots and cowboy hats, because the next Grand Prix takes place in Austin, Texas!

Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.