Lewis Hamilton: Did F1 star really spray Vladimir Putin with champagne?

Story highlights

  • F1 star accidentally sprays Putin with champagne
  • Russia's president presented winner's trophy
  • Top three drivers wore Russian hats on podium

(CNN)If Vladimir Putin has ever doubted sport's value in raising a country's global profile, then Sunday's Russian Grand Prix should have laid that idea to rest.

It wasn't so much the high-speed Formula One action on the Sochi Autodrome that lit up social media, but images which appeared to show winning driver Lewis Hamilton spraying Russia's president with champagne.

Closer inspection revealed that the enthusiastic Hamilton merely caught the back of Putin's jacket with bubbly as the race benefactor left the stage, but that didn't stop the 63-year-old's reputation as a tough leader becoming the butt of a number of online jokes. "Living dangerously," tweeted one Twitter user.

It wasn't the first time this year that Hamilton's podium antics have caused an uproar -- the Mercedes star had to apologize after spraying a Chinese woman in the face with champagne after winning April's race in Shanghai.

In Sochi, Hamilton also received an online ribbing for the Russian Ushanka hat he wore on the podium, along with second-placed Sebastian Vettel and third-placed Sergio Perez.

    Hamilton also won the Russian race in 2014, its inaugural staging as part of a reported $200 million deal to make it part of the F1 calendar until 2020.

    The Sochi Autodrom cost more than $330 million to build, part of a $50 billion renovation of the Black Sea resort. As well as hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Putin hoped to turn Sochi into an international business and holiday destination.

    Hamilton, for his part, was happy to play ambassador for the grand prix.

    "I'm very, very proud to be here in Russia, we've had a great time, thank you so much everyone," the British driver told reporters after claiming his ninth win out of 15 races this season.

    "Beautiful, beautiful country. If you're watching and you've never been out here, you should definitely come," added Hamilton, who is now 66 points clear of Vettel at the top of the championship standings with four GPs to go.

    Like last year, his Mercedes team celebrated clinching the constructors' title in Sochi, despite Nico Rosberg failing to finish due to a broken throttle.

    The championship was won when Kimi Raikkonen was punished for a late crash with Williams' Valtteri Bottas which ended both Finnish drivers' hopes of finishing third. The Ferrari veteran's demotion to eighth left his second-placed team 172 points behind Mercedes.

    For the Russians, the race was hailed as "one of the most dramatic of the season" on the circuit's official website.

    It proudly revealed that the event attracted 350 journalists from around the world, and almost 150,000 fans for its three days -- including 62,000 watching the race action unfold in Sochi's Olympic Park.

    Organizers also hailed the 1,200 volunteers from 17 countries, plus 300 employees of the Sochi Autodrom Medical Service.

    The medics were tested on Saturday when young Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jnr. suffered a spectacular crash in qualifying and was taken to hospital.

    The 21-year-old, son of former rally champion Carlos Sainz, was cleared to race on Sunday and was on track for a top-10 finish before his Toro Rosso suffered brake failure.

    "I have to be thankful to the whole team, they did a great job for me to be racing out there after the crash," he said.

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