Nico Rosberg’s winning streak continued at the Chinese Grand Prix with a third straight victory of the season as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had to settle for seventh. Nico Rosberg already leading the championship by 36 points after three races. It’s a long season, but Rosberg is already in a fantastic position for that first championship.
But the race behind Rosberg was far from boring, with carnage at the first corner creating a mixed up order that delivered wheel-to-wheel battles until the chequered flag. After hitting team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at the start, Sebastian Vettel dropped to 15th before mounting a comeback drive with a damaged front wing to finish second. Daniil Kvyat drove a solid race to third to take Red Bull’s first podium of the year.
Hamilton’s woes in China this weekend appeared endless and his seventh place finish now leaves him 36 points off Rosberg in the title race. After starting from the back of the grid after an engine problem in qualifying, he lost his front wing in the first corner due to contact with Felipe Nasr at Turn 1, which in turn saw him adopt an unusual five stop strategy. The time lost replacing the front wing was made up under a safety car period, but the damage caused when the wing came off caused him to loose a chunk of downforce, significantly lengthening his braking distances at Shanghai’s main overtaking opportunities. He battled hard, but could do no better than seventh by the chequered flag.
The first corner collisions were triggered by a committed move by Kvyat on Vettel, which was clean but took the Ferrari driver by surprise, leading him to label the Russian a “mad man” over team radio. Vettel swerved into team-mate Raikkonen, which created a concertina effect further down the order as drivers tried not to get involved in the accident at the tightening apex. Behind Raikkonen, Hamilton and Romain Grosjean also lost front wings in the melee and debris was dropped over the rest of the lap at various parts of the circuit.
Amid all the madness, Daniel Ricciardo made a brilliant start from second place to lead Rosberg in the opening two laps. However, the Red Bull ran over debris and on lap three suffered a spectacular tyre failure just after Rosberg passed using the DRS. Ricciardo then set about a brilliant recovery drive from 17th place to finish fourth.
The debris strewn around the race track resulted in a safety car on lap four to allow the marshals to clean the track, with half of the field taking the opportunity to change tyres. At the restart Rosberg immediately pulled away from Massa to build up a lead that eventually stood at 37.7s by the chequered flag. Vettel opted for super-softs at the restart and used them to great effect to slice through the field and move up to fourth before his next pit stop. Kvyat, meanwhile, had been shuffled down to fifth under the safety car and moved up to second by his second pit stop.
Vettel’s charge continued in his second stint before taking on soft tyres again for his final stint while Kvyat opted for mediums. He managed to reel in the Red Bull on lap 36, passing him with a move under braking at Turn 13 to take second place. Kvyat settled for a solid third but was only 6.7s ahead of team-mate Ricciardo, who passed three drivers in his final stint to finish fourth.
Raikkonen also made a solid recovery drive after his first corner contact to finish fifth ahead of Massa, Hamilton and the two Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Valtteri Bottas took the final point in tenth, with both Force Indias and both McLarens finishing outside the top ten.