Hamilton nears third F1 title with Russian GP victory


Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of winning a third Formula 1 world championship after claiming his ninth victory of the 2015 season in the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

After seeing Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg retire early due to a problem with his throttle, Hamilton inherited the lead before controlling proceedings en route to a dominant win.

WATCH: Full Russian Grand Prix Replay

Rosberg’s retirement means that Hamilton will be crowned world champion at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas if he wins the race and nearest rival Sebastian Vettel finishes outside of the top two.

Vettel battled through to finish second for Ferrari in Sochi, while a last-lap clash allowed Sergio Perez to end the day in third and score just the third-ever podium for Force India.

Off the line at the Sochi Autodrom, Rosberg made a fine start to retain his lead ahead of Hamilton in the drag race down to the second corner. Valtteri Bottas tried to keep with the Mercedes drivers, but dropped behind the fast-starting Kimi Raikkonen into fourth place as Vettel was left running P5.

Before the end of the first lap, the race was put behind a safety car following a clash between Nico Hulkenberg and Marcus Ericsson at turn two that put both out of the race on the spot. Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean were forced to pit for repairs, but both were ultimately able to continue.

With the debris cleared, the race restarted on lap four as Rosberg bolted away from Hamilton. Bottas made a superb move on Raikkonen to reclaim third place, but the Finn was able to keep Vettel back in the sister Ferrari through the opening laps of the race.

At the front, Rosberg reported that he had an issue with his throttle pedal, prompting concern in the Mercedes garage. The issue failed to resolve itself, causing Rosberg to drop behind Hamilton, Bottas and the two Ferrari drivers before crawling into the pit lane at the end of lap seven and retiring from the Russian Grand Prix.

His retirement left Hamilton on his own at the front, enjoying a two-second buffer to Bottas behind. More importantly for the title race, it left Rosberg’s faint hopes of beating Hamilton all but over.

Having inherited the lead, Hamilton quickly set about creating a gap to Bottas in second place. However, his charge was stunted when a second safety car period was called after Grosjean crashed hard at turn three. Thankfully, the Lotus driver walked away unharmed, but his shunt did spark a flurry of pit stops for cars further down the field.

Upon the restart on lap 17, Hamilton pulled away from Bottas as Vettel pulled off an aggressive move on Raikkonen to take P3. Home favorite Daniil Kvyat closed up on the Ferrari duo, but could not find a way past amid their battle, leaving him to sit fifth ahead of the high-flying Felipe Nasr as the race approached half distance.

Bottas was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 27, hoping to relieve some of the pressure from Vettel in the battle for second place. Ferrari kept its driver out for three more laps, believing that traffic would hold Bottas up, and it proved to be an accurate forecast. Vettel emerged from the pit lane well clear of Bottas, now running in net second place.

Hamilton finally came in for his one and only pit stop at the end of lap 32, experiencing zero issues and coming back out still leading the race. Just behind, Raikkonen tried to follow Vettel through past Bottas, but was unable to get through immediately after his pit stop on lap 31. The two duked for position over the laps that followed, allowing the early stopping Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez to pull away just ahead.

In the closing stages of the race, the decision to pit early began to hurt both Ricciardo and Perez. After spending 18 laps stuck behind Ricciardo, Bottas managed to push past for P4 with a burst of pace, and duly set his sights on Perez ahead.

Raikkonen followed Bottas’ lead five laps later by passing Ricciardo for P5 as the Red Bull driver encountered a problem on his car that forced him to park up and retire from the race with four laps remaining.

Up front though, no-one could match Hamilton’s relentless pace, allowing the Briton to ease to his ninth win of the 2015 season and move to within just one victory of a third Formula 1 world championship, which now looks set to be settled in Austin, Texas later this month.

Vettel followed Hamilton home in second place, while Perez lucked into third place following a last-lap clash between Raikkonen and Bottas. Perez had dropped behind both drivers, but contact between the two Finns on the last lap gave him third place and just the third ever podium finish in Force India’s history.

Felipe Massa also benefited from the clash, finishing fourth ahead of Raikkonen in P5, who will inevitably face some kind of post-race penalty. Daniil Kvyat ended his home race in sixth place ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado.

McLaren’s difficult weekend ended on a high as both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso scored points, finishing ninth and tenth respectively.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s comeback from his accident on Saturday came to a bitter end when he suffered a brake failure, costing him a likely points finish. Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen finished 11th ahead of Bottas, who was classified in P12 ahead of the two Manor drivers.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change