Nico Rosberg has won his third Grand Prix in a row after a crushing performance to finish 37 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat picked up his second podium finishing third.
The first corner of the race provided havoc for many drivers, none more so than the two Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, who collided with each other after Vettel attempted to avoid Kvyat lunging on the inside of Turn One.
The result saw Raikkonen suffer damage to his Ferrari causing the Finn to pit for a new front wing, while Vettel was able to continue albeit down in ninth position.
After successfully navigating himself through the most of the Turn One carnage, Lewis Hamilton lost what ground he had made starting from the back of the grid when Felipe Nasr took avoiding action to Raikkonen re-joining the track, swiped Hamilton’s front wing and caused it to fall under the car.
The reigning champion was forced to pit along with Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, who also lost his front wing in the Turn One mess.
Daniel Ricciardo had enjoyed a better start off the line compared to Rosberg and took the lead of the race heading into Turn One. Although it was only the second lap of the race when Ricciardo had run over some debris, which caused his right rear tyre to puncture on the long back straight.
Rosberg took the lead of the race while the Australian made his way to the pitlane to bolt on the soft compound tyre, and re-joined the race in 18th position.
Unfortunately for Ricciardo, the safety car was brought out just after he had completed his pit stop due to the many parts of carbon fibre left on the track after the chaotic first corner.
The front runners who had started the race on the super-soft tyre from qualifying pitted under the safety car, while Rosberg, who had qualified on the soft tyre, stayed out to maintain the lead.
Hamilton completed two pit stops under the safety car, first putting on the super soft tyre and then switching back to the soft, completing his mandatory tyre compound usage.
The race resumed on the ninth lap and Rosberg set about creating a gap big enough to pit under, and by the end of the lap had already amassed a three-second lead. Kvyat was running fifth at the time and was first of the pit stoppers, behind Felipe Massa, Pascal Wehrlein and Fernando Alonso who were yet to pit.
Vettel was charging his way back through the field running in sixth position after 12 laps, while Kvyat made his move on Massa to promote himself up into second position having been elevated two positions once Wehrlein and Alonso pitted.
Nico Hulkenberg picked up his second penalty for the weekend when he was found guilty by the Stewards for travelling too slow in the pit lane. He was hit with a five-second time penalty while his teammate Sergio Perez is currently under investigation for an unsafe release.
Jenson Button was the first driver to make the medium tyre work and the Briton was running just in the points when he hit the cliff on his tyres and let multiple positions slip, including two to Ricciardo and Hamilton who were both making their way back through the field.
Hamilton made his fifth and final pit stop on lap 31 and put on the medium tyre to run to the end of the race. Six laps later Ricciardo made the same move and used that to his advantage later in the race, as a four-way battle emerged for fourth position between Massa, Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo.Vettel made his move on Kvyat for
Meanwhile back near the front of the race, Vettel made his move on Kvyat for third position down the back straight while Ricciardo, yet to make his final pit stop, was running in second place.
Hamilton had passed Bottas on lap 41 and set after Massa in the other Williams to take fourth. After two laps of trying to pass the Brazilian with no avail, Ricciardo, on the younger set of tyres, edged passed Hamilton at Turn Six, then made quick work of Massa on the same lap during the penultimate corner. The Australian finishing fourth for the third successive race.
The tyres were starting to fade on Hamilton’s Mercedes and he lost sixth position to Raikkonen, who had just passed Bottas the lap earlier.
The Finn then quickly made his way ahead of Massa to finish an impressive recovery drive in fifth position.
Bottas was also suffering lack of grip with his medium compound tyres, as he fell behind a surging Max Verstappen on softs. It didn’t end there for Bottas when he was relegated to the final points-paying position by Verstappen’s teammate Carlos Sainz on the final lap.
Esteban Gutierrez finished in 14th position behind Perez and the two McLaren’s of Alonso and Button, while his teammate Grosjean struggled in the latter stages of the race with the car, calling it un-driveable and managed to bring the Haas home behind Wehrlein in 19th position.
Despite the carnage at the beginning of the race all 22 cars saw the chequered flag for the first time since last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Image via XPB Images