Rosberg led into Turn 1 and was never challenged as a tactical battle unfolded behind him to see who would finish ‘best of the rest’. Starting 10th on the grid, Hamilton rose as high as fourth before his charge was halted by ERS problems on his car. After several laps down on power, the world champion eventually found the right settings on his steering wheel to resolve the issue, but by then it was too late to improve his position.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took fourth, while Valtteri Bottas was the lead Williams in sixth, ahead of the two-stopping Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Williams’ Felipe Massa completed the top ten.
Rosberg’s was a superb redemptive victory - his fifth of the season - and the German never put a wheel wrong on a day when Mercedes crushed Ferrari. Against all expectations after two carnage-ridden GP2 races with multiple safety car deployments, there were no major incidents - but lots of passing.
Rosberg was in charge from the start and was completely unchallenged. Ricciardo gave chase initially until Vettel powered his Ferrari past the Red Bull on the main straight on the sixth lap as the Australian pitted early to switch from supersoft Pirelli tyres to softs. A handful of others did likewise on two-stop strategies, but when he was instructed to pit on the eighth lap, Vettel overrode Ferrari and would stay out until lap 20, a lap before Rosberg pitted.
Instead, Raikkonen took that stop, and as Vettel finished second, 16.6s behind Rosberg - it had been as much as 19.8s on the 44th lap - the Finn seemed set to finish third after a lengthy second stint. But he had incurred a five-second penalty for crossing the pit entry line without entering the pits, and with Perez thundering along in fourth within that window in the final laps, the Mexican was clearly going to be the final podium finisher.
The Mexican rammed the point home however - as Raikkonen suffered late ERS problems (as he had in Canada), Perez jumped him going into Turn 1 on the final lap to put the gloss on an excellent drive for Force India that made up for his shunt in FP3 which cost him his rightful second place on the grid thanks to a gearbox-change penalty.
Hamilton had quickly moved up from 10th, avoiding putting himself at risk in the opening laps, but when he failed to pass Perez it became clear that he had trouble. He struggled with a persistent de-rating problem with his ERS - when he had lower than maximum electrical deployment in his powertrain - and became increasingly frustrated as his engineers were not permitted by the radio rules to advise him on the exact nature of it. For a while he got his power back after endless fiddling with controls on the steering wheel, and set the race’s fastest lap on the 42nd, but then he began going slower again and was 56.3s behind his team mate at the finish.
Interestingly, Rosberg said he had a similar issue but got out of it by altering the “right controls”.
Bottas could do no better than sixth for Williams, as team mate Massa slumped from running ahead of him prior to the pit stops to finish 10th. Neither the Brazilian nor Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg had any answer to Red Bull’s late pace as Ricciardo and Max Verstappen - both on more durable medium tyres - took seventh and eighth places in the closing stages.
Button just missed a point in a tough race for McLaren in which Fernando Alonso ran just ahead of him before joining the retirement’s list with downshift problems. Already on that list were Pascal Wehrlein, who had a feisty single-stop race for Manor before running out of brakes, and the Toro Rosso duo Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat who had mechanical problems.
Felipe Nasr survived a brush with a wall for 12th for Sauber, leading home Romain Grosjean’s Haas, Kevin Magnussen’s single-stopping Renault and the Dane's team mate Jolyon Palmer, Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas, Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and Rio Haryanto’s Manor.
Rosberg’s lead in the world championship jumps up from nine points after Canada to 24, with 141 to Hamilton’s 117, and Vettel is closing on the reigning champion with 96. Raikkonen reclaims fourth from Ricciardo, with 81 to 78, as Verstappen overtakes Bottas, 54 to 52, and Perez passes Massa, 39 to 38.
First Grand Prix - 2016
Number of Laps - 51
Circuit Length - 6.003KM
Race Distance - 306.049KM
Lap Record - 1.46.485 Nico Rosberg (2016)
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