With Nico Rosberg retiring and Ferrari claiming second and fifth behind Lewis Hamilton’s victorious Silver Arrow, it had initially looked like Mercedes would have to wait until the United States Grand Prix (or later) to seal the crown.
But with the stewards subsequently handing Kimi Raikkonen a ten-second stop and go penalty for his last-lap clash with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, dropping the Ferrari driver to eighth, Mercedes eventually scored 25 points to the Prancing Horse's 22, giving them the three points they needed to clinch the title with four races to go.
“What an incredible moment for Mercedes-Benz!” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Congratulations to our team in Brackley and Brixworth who have worked so hard to make this achievement possible.
“After winning in 2014, we raised the bar again to secure this year’s title, and we needed to because our rivals gave us plenty of headaches as they stepped up their performance.
“We have two exceptional sportsmen at the wheel, Lewis and Nico, and a fantastic team behind the scenes, who have delivered 12 wins in 15 races so far this year. Their work has made every employee of Mercedes-Benz a world champion and we are very proud of them.”
Hamilton’s victory was his second in a row in Russia, his ninth win of the season and his 42nd career triumph, moving him level with Sebastian Vettel for third on the all-time list. The Briton now stands on the verge of becoming the first British driver in F1 history to claim back-to-back world titles, and can close out his third championship crown by outscoring Vettel by nine points and Rosberg by two points in the United States.
Second place not only lifted Vettel into second in the drivers' standings, it also gave the Ferrari driver his 11th podium finish of the season, which, somewhat surprisingly, is more than he scored in his 2010 and 2012 title-winning campaigns.
Behind the German, Sergio Perez benefitted from Raikkonen and Bottas’s tangle to score his - and Force India’s - first rostrum since last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The Mexican, who has scored points in four of the last five races, now has five career podium finishes to his name – the 11th most amongst active drivers.
Elsewhere, Felipe Massa took advantage of Valtteri Bottas’ late misfortune to finish fourth and close to within two points of his Williams team mate in the drivers’ standings. Home favourite Daniil Kvyat meanwhile leapfrogged Red Bull partner Daniel Ricciardo by finishing fifth.
Just behind the Russian, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr recorded his best result since the season-opener in Australia with sixth. The Brazilian has now scored points in two of the last three races, having earlier this season endured a six-race barren streak.
Further back, Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado equalled his best finish of the year by finishing seventh for the third time this season, while McLaren’s Jenson Button finished in the points for just the third time in 2015. The Woking team looked to have got both of their cars home in the top ten for just the second time this year, but after the race Fernando Alonso was hit with a 5-second time penalty for failing to respect track limits.
That lifted Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen into the points for the third race in a row and the seventh time this year.