Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix to extend F1 championship lead
Hamilton beat teammate Bottas – who had started on pole – as the pair’s Mercedes team ordered the Finn to let the British driver pass mid-way through the race to give him a clear run at the lead.
Vettel, Hamilton’s main title rival, came home third as the Ferrari failed to match the pace of the Mercedes cars.
Under overcast skies at the Sochi Autodrom, the top three on the grid of Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel maintained positions from the start after jostling at the first two turns.
The biggest mover in the opening stages was Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who marked his 21st birthday by marauding up the field from the back of the grid, where he started due to an engine penalty.
The Dutchman took the lead as he left his pit stop late, heading the field as the top five frequently shifted positions as the teams took pit stops.
The key moments in the context of the title battle came on lap 15 when Hamilton went in to pit after Vettel, then being overtaken by the German as he returned to the track.
Hamilton retook the German with an impressive pass just two laps later, and despite looking slower than teammate Bottas he was given a clear run to the front when Mercedes bosses ordered the Finn to let the championship leader pass.
A crucial move by @LewisHamilton to get past Sebastian Vettel and allow Mercedes to take control of the #RussianGP 🇷🇺Several laps later, he's 50 points clear of his title rival 🏁#F1pic.twitter.com/AKlsCXCACc— Formula 1 (@F1) September 30, 2018
The Brit then moved into the lead when Verstappen finally pitted on lap 43 of the 53, giving Hamilton a free run to the flag.
The win is Hamilton’s third in Sochi and Mercedes' fifth in a row since the Russian Grand Prix was added to the calendar.
Verstappen, perhaps the driver of the day after leading for long periods, ultimately finished fifth.
Hamilton's celebrations on the Black Sea coast appeared muted, likely in deference to his teammate Bottas, who had appeared the quicker of the two before team orders potentially deprived him of a win on the track he claimed glory at last season.
The result stengthens Hamilton's grip on the championship as he moves to 306 points, 50 head of Vettel on 256 with just five races on the calendar remaining.
The Brit is seeking a fifth world title, which would move him one ahead of Vettel.