Nico Rosberg extended his Formula 1 championship lead with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first-lap collision to finish third.
Rosberg made the most of polesitter Hamilton’s slow getaway to lead into the first corner and then was relatively comfortable at the front, finishing 10.2 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen under the lights at Sakhir.
Hamilton bogged down at the start but was second into Turn 1 before the Mercedes driver was T-boned by Valtteri Bottas, dropping him to ninth.
The drama started even before the race, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel failed to start after his engine blew up on the warm-up lap.
Rosberg’s progress was serene out front after Hamilton was collected by Bottas at the opening corner, causing him to half spin. After momentarily dropping to ninth, Hamilton’s recovery was a feature of the race. Although he struggled initially due to damaged aero on his sidepod and floor, the broken pieces fell off after a handful of laps.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had no answer for Rosberg’s pace up front, although he did get within 4s after the final round of pitstops after Nico suffered a slow stop, but he was easily able to keep Hamilton at bay.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo damaged his front wing at the first corner, but recovered to finish fourth, ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean – who went one place better than Melbourne in fifth. Mercedes then geared Hamilton’s strategy around a safety car that never happened.
Story of the race
Rosberg made a terrible practice start but produced a fine one when it mattered. With no Vettel on the grid, the Williams duo took full advantage by sprinting past a slow-starting Raikkonen.
Bottas hit Hamilton into a half spin at Turn 1, damaging the sidepod of his Mercedes and dropping him to ninth. “Something feels wrong at my rear,” Hamilton reported, while Bottas said: “Everything feels OK from my side.”
Rosberg led lap one from Felipe Massa, Bottas, Ricciardo (who damaged his front wing against the rear of Bottas at Turn 1), Kimi Raikkonen and Grosjean. Hamilton quickly recovered to seventh, and then passed Grosjean at Turn 1 for sixth.
Raikkonen passed Ricciardo for fourth around the outside at Turn 4, helped after the Australian had run wide at Turn 1, and Ricciardo soon dived for the pits for a new nose section.
Raikkonen then caught and passed Bottas at Turn 1 on lap seven for third, who lost a further place to a recovering Hamilton a lap later.
Bottas was the first to pit for mediums on lap nine, just before his drive-through penalty was confirmed for his first-corner collision with Hamilton. Mercedes was able to pit both of its cars on lap 14, as Hamilton was so far behind Rosberg. On fresh rubber, Hamilton passed Massa at Turn 1 a lap later.
Romain Grosjean continued Haas’s brilliant start to the season with a superb fifth, having done three stints on the super-soft tyres, one place behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen bolted on a set of super-soft tyres late and surged past Felipe Massa to take sixth, with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat also passing the Brazilian on the penultimate lap to take seventh.
Massa ran second early on after an impressive start, but dropped down the field as Williams opted for a two-stop strategy with two stints on the medium and he ended up eighth.
Bottas, who had a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with Hamilton at the start, was ninth while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, standing in for the injured Fernando Alonso, scored a point on his F1 debut with 10th.
Kevin Magnussen was 11th, ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who had a feisty battle with team-mate Felipe Nasr, with the two making contact in the early stages. The Swede came out on top and ended up 12th, with Nasr finishing down in 14th and complaining on team radio that the car “is terrible to drive”. Pascal Wehrlein finished an impressive 13th for Manor with the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg 15th and 16th respectively.
Carlos Sainz Jr looked well-placed when the highest runner on the softs early on, but he picked up a puncture when he was clipped by Perez and later retired. While Grosjean scored points for the second successive race, there was heartache for Haas team-mate Esteban Gutierrez who was running in the points one place behind Grosjean before pulling into the pits and retiring the car.
Jenson Button retired with an ERS problem while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap with a hydraulics issue.
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||+1:02.494|
|5||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||+1:18.299|
|6||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+1:20.928|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||+1 lap|
|8||Felipe Massa||Williams||+1 lap|
|9||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||+1 lap|
|10||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||+1 lap|
|11||Kevin Magnussen||Renault F1 Team||+1 lap|
|12||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 lap|
|13||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing MRT||+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 Racing MRT||+1 lap|
|R||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso|
|R||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas F1 Team|
|R||Jolyon Palmer||Renault F1 Team|