Nico Rosberg took advantage of the opening lap chaos to build up an insurmountable lead in Bahrain, racing to a comfortable victory over Kimi Raikkonen.
The race started one driver short as Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari engine blew on the formation lap. That became two as Jolyon Palmer pulled into the pits and didn’t take the start in his Renault.
But despite losing two drivers before the start, the remaining 20 caused enough chaos for a full grid.
As the lights went out Rosberg made a flying start from P2 on the grid while behind him there was drama.
Lewis Hamilton was collected by Valtteri Bottas as they vied for position at the first corner. The impact damaged his W07 and caused Hamilton to be swamped by rivals. “Something feels wrong on the rear,” he said. Bottas was handed a drive-through for causing the collision.
Nico Hulkenberg pitted for repairs as his Force India was damaged in the scrum while Carlos Sainz suffered a puncture when he was hit by Sergio Perez, who lost his front wing in contact.
The chaos behind allowed Rosberg to build an unassailable lead over the chasing pack, which after the first round of pit stops was led by Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. All three opted for new softs in their second stint whereas Hamilton, who was up to P4 and the passed Ricciardo for third, went with the mediums.
The second round of pit stops played out with Rosberg 11.1s ahead of Raikkonen, both drivers on the super-softs while Hamilton was a further 3.4s off the pace – and all on the super-softs.
The trio challenging for the victory pitted a third time with Raikkonen the first to stop for softs followed by Rosberg, who made the same choice. Hamilton came in laps later, swapping his super-softs for softs as well. As the stops panned out Rosberg was 4.8s ahead of Raikkonen, who was 16.9 ahead of Hamilton.
Despite both Raikkonen and Hamilton trying to make inroads they were unable to stop Rosberg, who claimed his second win of this season – and his fifth on the trot – by 10 seconds ahead of Raikkonen. Hamilton completed the podium in third.
Behind them the race for fourth featured several challengers depending on where the drivers were in their tyre strategies.
When it all played out it was Daniel Ricciardo was ‘best of the rest’ ahead of Romain Grosjean. Despite a tardy final stop, which saw Grosjean stationary for 8.1s as Haas struggled with his rear-left tyre, the Frenchman recovered to better his Australian GP result.
Max Verstappen was fifth ahead of Felipe Massa, who two-stopped, Daniil Kvyat, Bottas and Formula 1 debutant Stoffel Vandoorne. The McLaren test driver, who replaced Fernando Alonso for the Bahrain weekend, put in a fantastic display to score the final point ahead of Kevin Magnussen.
His team-mate Jenson Button was the first in-race retirement, pulling his McLaren onto the side of the track on Lap 7. It was reported that his ERS had failed. He was joined on the sidelines by Esteban Gutierrez who pulled into the pits two laps later. Sainz retired his STR10 on lap 31.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.34.696
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +10.282
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +30.148
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +62.494
5 Romain Grosjean Haas +78.299
6 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +80.929
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull +1 lap
8 Felipe Massa Williams +1 lap
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 lap
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren +1 lap
11 Kevin Magnussen Renault +1 lap
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +1 lap
13 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +1 lap
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 lap
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1 lap
16 Sergio Perez Force India +1 lap
17 Rio Haryanto Manor +1 lap
Did Not Finish
Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso
Esteban Gutierrez Haas
Jenson Button McLaren
Jolyon Palmer Renault
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari