Hamilton got the jump on polesitter Rosberg at the start, and from there only lost P1 during pit stops. Red Bull were able to push the Silver Arrows in the early stages, but their challenge faded and Ricciardo came home 25 seconds off the lead, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel right on his tail.
In the second Red Bull-Ferrari battle, Max Verstappen held on to win a tense and lengthy scrap for fifth with Kimi Raikkonen, while Fernando Alonso took a worthy seventh for McLaren with his team mate Jenson Button was the race’s sole retirement. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten to take the remaining points.
Hamilton may have been up front, but the nip-and-tuck flow as the two Silver Arrows cut through lapped traffic ensured that the world champion was never able to relax, once Rosberg had got his second wind and reduced the advantage Hamilton had opened up in the first stint on the supersoft Pirelli tyre.
He seemed less happy on the two sets of softs that he used after that, whereas Rosberg could push harder on them than the supersofts, but the German could not gain track position. The closest he got was on lap 52 when the gap came down to 0.6s after Hamilton was blocked by backmarker Esteban Gutierrez in the Haas, and again when Hamilton had locked up and momentarily run wide in Turn 12 on the 62nd lap, but thereafter he regained momentum and had things under control to the flag.
Both Red Bull and Ferrari showed moments of potential. Riccardo so nearly went round the outside of both Mercedes for the lead at the start but having got by Rosberg in Turn 1 he then lost out to him almost immediately in Turn 2. Later the Australian was lapping faster than the Mercedes at times, but though he got the gap down to under five seconds to Hamilton mid-race, thereafter he faded and was only just able to keep Ferrari’s Vettel at bay by the end.
Team mate Verstappen’s race was compromised when Hamilton pinched him at the start as he tried to go down the inside of the Mercedes into Turn 1, and then ruined when he came out from his first pit stop behind Raikkonen, who had started his Ferrari on the soft tyre. The Finn resolutely kept him under control, losing the Dutchman any chance of the podium.
Towards the end the boot was on the other foot, however; Verstappen overtook Raikkonen when the latter stopped for fresh supersofts on lap 50. It seemed only a matter of time before the Ferrari repassed, but as Raikkonen tried a move in Turn 2 on lap 57, the Ferrari ran into the Red Bull as it changed direction. His left front wing endplate damaged, an unhappy Raikkonen had to settle for sixth, three-tenths in arrears.
The result gives Hamilton 192 points to Rosberg’s 186, as Ricciardo moves to third on 115 just ahead of Raikkonen on 114. Vettel is fifth with 110, as Verstappen closes up with 100.
In the constructors’ stakes, Mercedes have 378 points, Ferrari 224 and Red Bull are closing still with 223.
First Grand Prix - 1986
Number of Laps - 70
Circuit Length - 4.381KM
Race Distance - 306.63KM
Lap Record - 1:19.071 Michael Schumacher (2004)
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