FOURTH WIN OF 2016: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit. Image: AFP / Yuri Kadobnov
Sochi - Nico Rosberg became only the fourth driver in Formula 1 history to record seven successive wins when he cruised to victory ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's incident-filled Russian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old German started from pole position and produced an imperious performance as he pulled clear of the field to take his fourth win of the 2016 season and the 18th of his career.
He won the final three races of 2015 and is now unbeaten since defending three time world champion Briton Hamilton triumphed in 2015 at the United States GP to secure the championship.
Rosberg joins elite group
The only three men to have reeled off seven straight wins were Italian Alberto Ascari and Germans Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, whose race on Sunday was ended by a first lap accident.
Hamilton, who started 10th, avoided the carnage of a first lap multiple collision that eliminated Vettel to sear through the field and, briefly, threaten a challenge for the lead.
Vettel's Ferrari was hit by Russian rival Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull, who twice rammed into his car.
Kyvat had sparked anger from Vettel last time out at the China GP when bumping into him again on the first lap.
Read: Russian GP - As it happened
Hamilton's race, however, was stymied by further mechanical problems.
He had suffered an engine failure in qualifying on Saturday and he was forced to nurse his Mercedes home 25 seconds behind the rampant Rosberg.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished third in the second Ferrari ahead of compatriot Valtteri Bottas and his Williams team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa.
Fernando Alonso came home a much-improved sixth for McLaren ahead of Kevin Magnussen of Renault, Romain Grosjean for Haas, Sergio Perez of Force India and 2009 champion Jenson Button who was 10th in the second McLaren.
Rosberg's win increased his lead in the drivers championship to 43 points, ahead of Hamilton, after four of this year's 21 races.
Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the Russian GP after a first lap collision with the Red Bull of Daniil Kyvat on Sunday.
Vettel's Ferrari appeared to suffer a puncture and spun into the crash barriers on lap three after Kyvat went into the back of him twice.
Vettel lashes out at 'madman' Kyvat
The incident will fuel the bad blood between the pair after Vettel accused the Russian of being "a madman" after a first corner incident in the Chinese Grand Prix.
An exasperated Vettel said over the team radio, before adding an expletive: "Somebody hit me on turn one, then the same guy hit me on turn three, honestly, what are we doing here?"
He cut a forlorn figure, picking up the front wing of his stricken Ferrari and sticking it in the cockpit before commandeering a scooter and riding it back to the pits.
Back in the pits Vettel told Sky Sports television: "I got a big hit, lucky not to spin on turn two, then got another hit and couldn't avoid hitting the barrier.
"These things happen, doesn't help me because I'm here and the race is still happening."
Vettel: 'It destroyed our race' -
Kyvat picked up a ten second drive through penalty as punishment for his wayward driving.
Vettel has not enjoyed the best of starts to 2016, his Bahrain GP hopes going up in smoke before the race even got underway when his Ferrari packed up on the warm up lap.
Also out in separate incidents on a chaotic first lap in Sochi were Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Manor's Indonesian rookie Rio Haryanto.
After the appearance of the safety car the race restarted with Mercedes pole sitter Nico Rosberg leading and his teammate and world champion Lewis Hamilton up from 10th to third by lap 19.
2016 Russian GP result:
1. Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes) 1hr 32min 41.997sec
2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) at 25.022sec
3. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) 31.998
4. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams) 50.217
5. Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams) 1:14.427
6. Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren-Honda) 1 lap
7. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Renault) 1 lap
8. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) 1 lap
9. Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India) 1 lap
10. Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren-Honda) 1 lap
11. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) 1 lap
12. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso) 1 lap
13. Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault) 1 lap
14. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 1 lap
15. Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Red Bull) 1 lap
16. Felipe Nasr (BRA/Sauber) 1 lap
17. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX/Haas) 1 lap
18. Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Manor) 2 laps
Rio Haryanto (INA/Manor): 1st lap, Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari): 1st lap, Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Force India): 1st lap, Max Verstappen (NED/Toro Rosso): 35th lap
Formula 1 world championship standings:
1. Nico Rosberg (GER) 100 pts
2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 57
3. Kimi Rikknen (FIN) 43
4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 36
5. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 33
6. Felipe Massa (BRA) 32
7. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 22
8. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) 21
9. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 19
10. Max Verstappen (NED) 13
11. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 8
12. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 6
13. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 6
14. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 4
15. Sergio Prez (MEX) 2
16. Jenson Button (GBR) 1
17. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 1
1. Mercedes 157 pts
2. Ferrari 76
3. Red Bull 57
4. Williams 51
5. Haas 22
6. Toro Rosso 17
7. McLaren 10
8. Force India 8
9. Renault 6