WINNER IN RUSSIA: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Russian F1 Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit. Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic
Sochi, Russia - Lewis Hamilton took full advantage of his Mercedes' team-mate Nico Rosberg's mechanical misfortunes to seize a commanding victory in Sunday's incident-filled Russian Grand Prix and take a massive lead in the title race.
The defending two-time world champion started second on the grid, inherited the lead when Rosberg slowed and then retired, after seven laps, with throttle pedal problems and claimed his ninth win of the season and 42nd of his career with ease.
Vettel second in the championship
That lifted the Briton up to 302 points in the world championship, with Sebastian Vettel, who took second in his Ferrari, now on 236 points, 66 adrift, with Rosberg now 73 points adrift on 229.
Read: As it happened: 2015 Russian GP
If the cards fall in his favour Hamilton can clinch the title in the next race in the United States on October 25.
Hamilton said: "I was excited because Nico and I were quite close together at the beginning. It was a shame for the team to lose one of the cars.
"I don't take what we have granted."
Vettel added: "I thought there was a slight chance to catch Lewis at one point but he had so much pace in hand."
Despite his ill luck Rosberg refused to concede the title.
The German said: "F1 is pretty incredible sometimes, how tough it is.
"I am never going to win a championship like that when normal things break on a day when I should have won the race, but I will come back, as I always do."
Two safety car interventions
In a race with two Safety Car interventions, several accidents and a series of retirements, Spaniard Carlos Sainz who hadcrashed heavily in his Toro Rosso on Saturday, was passed fit to start from the back of the grid, rose to 10th and retired after spinning off in the closing laps.
An opening lap multi-car collision caused the first Safety Car. The second came after 12 laps when Romain Grosjean crashed heavily in his Lotus and climbed out of the wreckage unhurt.
Another crash on the final lap, involving Finns Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas of Williams as they battled for third gave the position instead to Sergio Perez who claimed only the third podium in the Force India team's history.
Perez said: "It's just feels great to be back. One lap before the end it seemed like everything went away from us. I was very unhappy with myself but in the end I thought 'I gave it all'.
"On the last lap when it came it was just amazing."
Felipe Massa secured some compensation for Williams by finishing fourth ahead of Raikkonen, local hero Russian Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull and Felipe Nasr of Sauber.
McLaren duo in the points
Pastor Maldonado took eighth for Lotus and the two McLaren cars both claimed points with Jenson Button finishing ninth and Fernando Alonso 10th, having started on the back row of the grid.
Vettel's strong finish and Rosberg's exit meant champions Mercedes were unable to wrap up another constructors title triumph at the Sochi Autodrom where Russian president Vladimir Putin arrived to take part in the post-race ceremonies.
It was also Hamilton's 42nd GP victory, surpassing the tally of his hero Ayrton Senna.
Final classification of the 2015 Russian GP
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:37:11.024
2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari +00:05.953
3. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 00:28.918
4. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 00:38.831
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 00:42.358
6. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull - Renault 00:47.566
7. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 00:56.508
8. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 1min01.088
9. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min19.467
10. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min26.210
11. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min28.424
12r. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
13. Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia - Ferrari 1 lap
14. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 2 laps
15r. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull - Renault 6 laps
r. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 7 laps
r. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 42 laps
r. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 46 laps
r. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 53 laps
r. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 53 laps
(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified) Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel,1:40.071, lap 51.
Drivers standings after Russian GP
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 302
2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 236
3. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 229
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 129
5. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 111
6. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 109
7. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull 74
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 73
9. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 54
10. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 44
11. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 38
12. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 32
13. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 23
14. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 20
15. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 12
16. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 12
17. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 9
18. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 8
19. Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia 0
20. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia 0
21. Alexander Rossi (U.S.) Marussia 0
1. Mercedes - 531
2. Ferrari -365
3. Williams - Mercedes 220
4. RedBull - Renault 147
5. Force India - Mercedes 92
6. Lotus - Mercedes 64
7. Toro Rosso - Renault 44
8. Sauber - Ferrari 32
9. McLaren - 20
10. Marussia - Ferrari 0