CHAMPIONSHIP hopeful Nico Rosberg rued a costly mistake after team-mate and rival Lewis Hamilton edged closer to clinching his second world title with victory at the Russia Grand Prix yesterday.
Rosberg’s desperation to overtake Hamilton backfired on the first lap when the German, having passed the Englishman, locked his front wheels and ran off the track. He was forced to pit to replace his damaged tyres and hand back first place to Hamilton, who claimed his fourth successive win and his ninth of the year.
Hamilton, who equalled Nigel Mansell’s British record of 31 Formula One race wins, now leads his Mercedes colleague by 17 points with three grands prix and 100 points still on offer, including double points in the Bahrain season finale.
Rosberg recovered from his early error to muster a second-placed finish that secured Mercedes’s maiden constructors’ championship, but admitted he had nobody to blame but himself.
“I think it was definitely doable and I just messed up. Very simple explanation. I braked too late and too hard,” he said. “It was just a mistake on my side. Very unnecessary. It was my corner and should have been the lead I had. After that my tyres were square so I couldn’t see where I was going and had to pit.”
Hamilton praised Rosberg’s resilience and the team’s consistency as he continued his progress towards another driver’s title, six years after becoming F1’s youngest champion.
“Nico did a great job to recover,” he said. “The car was performing really well. It’s history for us. I feel very proud to be a part of it. To get the first constructors’ championship for Mercedes-Benz is a wonderful day.”
F1’s debut in Russia attracted president Vladimir Putin to Sochi for the spectacle, though fanfare was muted with French driver Jules Bianchi still in critical condition a week after his crash in Japan.
His Marussia team opted to run just one driver rather than nominate a replacement for Bianchi, who suffered severe head injuries. Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams.
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 291
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 274
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull 199
4. Valtteri Bottas, Williams 145
5. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull 143
6. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari 141
7. Jenson Button, McLaren 94
8. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India 76