Belfast Telegraph

Mercedes top team as Lewis Hamilton wins again in Russia

By Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton has said it feels "special" to be part of back-to-back team titles after Mercedes were belatedly crowned champions in Russia.

The 30-year-old Briton also has one hand on the drivers' title after he recorded his ninth victory of the season in front of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

But following Nico Rosberg's retirement, and the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen crossing the line in second and fifth respectively, it appeared as though the Silver Arrows would have to put their team celebrations on hold.

Raikkonen however was hauled in front of the stewards after the race in the wake of his last-lap collision with Valtteri Bottas and was subsequently hit with a 30-second timed penalty.

It demoted him to eighth and meant Mercedes now have an unassailable lead in the team championship with four races to spare.

Hamilton was heard whooping in the team's motorhome as the result of the stewards' investigation arrived a little under two hours after he had claimed victory.

"It just feels special to be a part of it and to have contributed to a team success," said Hamilton, who will emulate his idol Ayrton Senna with three world titles if he outscores Vettel by nine points and team-mate Rosberg by two at the next race in Texas.

"It is a great, great, great feeling so I feel very proud when I am up there and I see the smiles on everyone's faces. Tomorrow I am going to see the whole team.

"Whilst I feel like a small link in the chain of many people, I am proud of my spot and I am proud of that link that has gained the points that we have."

Mercedes have been the dominant force in Formula One for two seasons. Indeed Hamilton's victory here on Sunday was their 28th from the last 33 grands prix.

Ross Brawn, who left the team at the end of Hamilton's first year with Mercedes in 2013, was pivotal to the Briton's decision to leave McLaren. And Hamilton, who briefly stopped his media session to send Brawn a congratulatory text, paid tribute to his countryman.

"I remember sitting with Ross and I got such a good feeling when they told me the plans they had," he added. "I am thinking right now that I need to message him. Whilst today we are succeeding, Ross is still a part of it."

One man in little mood for celebration however was Rosberg after his dreams of catching Hamilton all but ended when he retired on lap seven with a throttle issue.

"It is tough, it really is tough. So much goes into a weekend like that," said Rosberg.

"The preparation starts at the beginning of the week, coming here having a really awesome weekend, qualifying, race start, first corner, everything is going to plan and to lose it in such a way is really tough."

Carlos Sainz recovered from his harrowing practice crash and was on course to finish a career-high seventh but spun out in the closing stages.

Sergio Perez was the lucky recipient of Raikkonen's collision with Bottas to steal the last spot on the podium. Felipe Massa was fourth for Williams while Jenson Button finished ninth for McLaren - only the third time he has been in the points this season.

Belfast Telegraph


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