There was plenty of drama in Sunday’s 2016 Formula Pirelli Chinese Grand Prix, but Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg kept it all behind him to secure his sixth successive F1 victory, taking the win from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat.
After leading before suffering a puncture, Daniel Ricciardo came through for Red Bull to fourth, followed by the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
Lewis Hamilton, who started last for Mercedes after his qualifying problems, came through a battling afternoon which featured five pit stops to finish seventh, just ahead of the Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz.
It was Red Bull who led into Turn 1 at the start, Ricciardo getting the jump on polesitter Rosberg from P2 on the grid.
Kvyat made a split decision move down the inside of Vettel at Turn 2. Surprised, the German jinked to the left, and into the path of Raikkonen - the pair made contact, pitching Raikkonen into a half spin and forcing him to pit with damage. Vettel, meanwhile, lost ground and dropped to eighth.
Hamilton lost his front wing after contact with Felipe Nasr as the Sauber driver tried to avoid the melee, while Romain Grosjean damaged his Haas’s nose on the sister Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
Further drama followed when Ricciardo's tyre deflated on lap three, forcing him to pit and consigning the Australian - like Hamilton and Raikkonen - to fighting back for the rest of the race.
The track now littered with debris, the safety car was deployed, prompting the bulk of the field to pit for fresh tyres. When the race resumed on lap eight, Rosberg headed an otherwise unlikely lead pack that featured Williams’ Felipe Massa, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, none of whom had stopped.
Rosberg was rarely troubled thereafter, but behind him the action continued at a breathless pace. Kvyat was soon into second, while by mid-distance Vettel had fought his way back into third.
Kvyat kept ahead until lap 35, when Vettel dived down the inside at Turn 14 to snatch a second he protected until the flag. Kvyat was a close third, booking a Grand Prix podium for only the second time in his career.
Red Bull's great day was completed as Ricciardo drove a brilliantly to recover to fourth, despite being 17th at the end of lap four. After switching to medium tyres on the 37th lap he caught and passed Hamilton, Bottas and Massa, to finish only 6.7s down on his team mate.
Raikkonen, too, recovered well, passing Bottas, Hamilton and Massa in the final stint to take fifth. Massa, meanwhile, was able to keep Hamilton at bay after a tense scrap. The Briton very nearly repeated a superb passing move he had already made on Bottas on the lead Williams on the 46th lap, but when Massa thwarted that, he fell prey to Raikkonen and had to be content with seventh place.
By the finish, the second Mercedes was just a second ahead of a charging Verstappen, who had also had to muscle his way up the order after falling to the back during the frantic rush to pit under the safety car.
Nasr, whose race was compromised in that Turn 1 collision with Hamilton, beat Rio Haryanto in the second Manor to 20th, with Palmer the final runner in a race that featured plenty of incident but - somehow - no retirees.
In the championship, Rosberg now has an early and commanding lead on 75 points, almost double that of Hamilton, in second on 39. Ricciardo is third with 36, with Vettel on 33 and Raikkonen on 28.
First Grand Prix - 2004
Number of Laps - 56
Circuit Length - 5.451KM
Race Distance - 305.066KM
Lap Record - 1:32.238 by Michael Schumacher (2004)
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