Alonso out before crash halts Russian Grand Prix

Hamilton was slow in Singapore and at the Japanese Grand Prix a year ago, too, but even then, the deficit of defeat to Nico Rosberg was not as big as here. Mercedes' other driver, Lewis Hamilton, started the race in fourth but couldn't follow his teammate through the red wall.

Hamilton struggled to fourth behind the Ferraris of title leader Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen while team-mate Valtteri Bottas took a maiden win.

The Finn looked on course for a straightforward win until a rare slip saw him damage a tire.

The strongest showings of the day were Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with 1.33.194 and his team mate Kimi Raikkonen delivering a 1:33.253.

"Getting the first win is something special", Bottas said. "Thanks so much to the team and the factory".

"But, I don't know what happened".

Bottas said: “Lewis said he was happy for me which was very nice from him. "He was a driver that showed he is at this level in the right way", Massa said. Bottas is third, 10 points further back.

Raikkonen finished third while Red Bull's Max Verstappen completed the top five.

"Why is my auto overheating?" he asked at one point.

'It is not important to think about the championship because I need to understand where the speed was this weekend, where I went wrong with the set-up, and then come back fighting for the next race. Hamilton was nowhere in practice and then qualified almost six tenths of a second behind pole-sitter Vettel and more than half-a-second adrift of Bottas.

But the Mercedes driver said he was far more concerned about understanding why he was off the pace in Russian Federation. It is good to see that from a three-time world champion.

"For me, once I got around the first couple of laps I was basically stuck where I was". Renault's Nico Hulkenberg took eighth place, while Felipe Massa to ninth and Carlos Sainz Jr claimed tenth place and a sole point for the Toro Rosso team.

Verstappen won for Red Bull in Spain previous year, his first career victory, after Hamilton and now-retired team mate Nico Rosberg collided on the first lap and nobody is taking anything for granted now. However, further back, Haas driver Romain Grosjean's auto made contact with the Renault of Jolyon Palmer, ending the race for both.

By lap 42 of the 52 trips around the 5.848-kilometre circuit, Bottas' lead was down to 1.1 seconds but Vettel was subsequently held up by backmarkers to ease the pressure. Vettel controlled the race for the next seven laps, before also coming in for his first stop.

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