SOCHI (Russia) • Lewis Hamilton took full advantage of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg's mechanical misfortunes to seize a commanding victory in yesterday's Russian Grand Prix and take a massive step towards a third world title.
The defending world champion started second on the grid and took the lead when Rosberg slowed and then retired after seven laps with throttle pedal problems, to claim his ninth win of the season.
With this 42nd career win, he surpassed his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna's tally in the record books. It also lifted the Briton to 302 points in the world championship. Sebastian Vettel, who was second in his Ferrari, is now on 236 points, 66 adrift. Rosberg, on 229, is now third, 77 points behind Hamilton.
If the cards fall in his favour, Hamilton can clinch the 2015 title at the next race, in the United States on Oct 25. He will need to beat Vettel by 10 points and Rosberg by two.
"I honestly did not know that, but I am just going to take it race by race and concentrate on that," he said. "I don't take what we have (for) granted, but it's a special moment for me to surpass Ayrton."
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 37min 11.024sec
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +5.953sec
3 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +28.918
4 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +38.831
5 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Red Bull +47.566
1 Hamilton 302
2 Vettel 236
3 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 229
1 Mercedes 531 – champions
2 Ferrari 359
3 Williams 220
For his team, the celebrations for winning the constructors' title began yesterday - albeit after a delay.
Kimi Raikkonen had finished fifth in the second Ferrari following a dramatic final lap, where he clashed with Valtteri Bottas, taking the Williams driver out.
But following investigations, the Finn was penalised 30 seconds and was demoted to eighth. As such, Mercedes' second successive title was sealed with four races to spare.
Raikkonen's clash - in a race with two safety car stints, several accidents and retirements - gave the third podium spot to Force India's Sergio Perez. It was his team's first of the season and third ever.
"This team, the people we have and level of engineering is pretty high and I am very proud of them," said the Mexican. "People seem to forget we only had two days of testing before the season started."
It was also an eventful day for Carlos Sainz, who had crashed heavily in his Toro Rosso on Saturday. He was passed fit to start from the back of the grid, rose to seventh and retired after spinning off in the closing laps with brake failure. He lasted longer than Rosberg though, with the German forced to retire in the pits.
Despite his ill luck, Rosberg refused to concede the title.
"Formula One is pretty incredible sometimes, how tough it is," he said. "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."