Nico Rosberg extending his lead in the Formula 1 world championship with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
This was Rosberg’s fifth consecutive victory and two on the trot this season. His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first-lap clash against Valtteri Bottas 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 hit from the side by Valtteri Bottas, dropping him to ninth.
The reigning world champion suffered front wing damage in the moment but was able to continue, carving his way back through the field to rescue third and remain within 17 points of title rival Rosberg.
Raikkonen also recovered from a poor getaway but didn’t quite have enough speed to seriously challenge Rosberg for the lead in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, his team-mate Sebastian Vettel did not even make the start after suffering an engine failure on the formation lap.
It was very unfortunate to see Vettel had to pull out before the Bahrain Grand Prix got started. If the Ferrari was reliable, if would be fascinating to see the four-time champion fighting against the Silver Arrows.
At least Romain Grosjean provide some racing action, as he continued Haas’s brilliant start to the season with a superb fifth, having done three stints on the super-soft tyres, one position 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 Williams 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 position.
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 tenth.
This was a superb effort from the GP2 champion. Out qualifies his world champion team-mate Jenson Button and scores a point for himself and the McLaren-Honda team. We shall see if Vandoorne has another chance to drive in Formula 1 after this debut.
Kevin Magnussen was P11, 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 Sauber driver came out on top and ended up P12, with Nasr finishing down in P14 and complaining on team radio that the car “is terrible to drive”.
Pascal Wehrlein finished an impressive P13 for Manor with the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg P15 and P16 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 position 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.
So another victory for Nico Rosberg and Mercedes. The driver and car are in harmony. Lets see if this winning form continues.
Bahrain Grand Prix, after 57 laps:
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h33m34.696s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 10.282s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 30.148s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1m02.494s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m18.299s
6 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m20.929s
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1 Lap
8 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1 Lap
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1 Lap
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1 Lap
11 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1 Lap
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
13 Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes 1 Lap
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1 Lap
16 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1 Lap
17 Rio Haryanto Manor-Mercedes 1 Lap
– Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Ferrari Retirement
– Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari Retirement
– Jenson Button McLaren-Honda Retirement
– Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Not started
– Jolyon Palmer Renault Not started
1 Nico Rosberg 50
2 Lewis Hamilton 33
3 Daniel Ricciardo 24
4 Kimi Raikkonen 18
5 Romain Grosjean 18
6 Sebastian Vettel 15
7 Felipe Massa 14
8 Max Verstappen 9
9 Nico Hulkenberg 6
10 Daniil Kvyat 6
11 Valtteri Bottas 6
12 Carlos Sainz 2
13 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
14 Kevin Magnussen 0
15 Jolyon Palmer 0
16 Marcus Ericsson 0
17 Sergio Perez 0
17 Pascal Wehrlein 0
19 Felipe Nasr 0
20 Jenson Button 0
21 Rio Haryanto 0
1 Mercedes 83
2 Ferrari 33
3 Red Bull-TAG Heuer 30
4 Williams-Mercedes 20
5 Haas-Ferrari 18
6 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11
7 Force India-Mercedes 6
8 McLaren-Honda 1
9 Renault 0
10 Sauber-Ferrari 0
11 Manor-Mercedes 0
Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai. April 15-17.