2016 Bahrain GP: Nico Rosberg wins, Hamilton third after troubled start
Rosberg continues winning run with Hamilton recovering to third after first-corner clash with Bottas; Raikkonen second but Vettel's Ferrari blows up on formation lap; Grosjean fifth for Haas
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/04/16 6:05am
Nico Rosberg won his fifth race in a row at the Bahrain GP to maintain the perfect start to his 2016 title bid - as Lewis Hamilton finished third after a first-corner collision.
In a race that served up drama even before the lights went out as Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari blew up on the formation lap, Rosberg overtook polesitter Hamilton at the start, before seeing his team-mate plummet down the order.
The world champion's Mercedes was hit by Valtteri Bottas' fast-starting Williams into Turn One, an impact which spun the W07 round and badly damaged its bodywork and floor.
Dropping to ninth, Hamilton quickly raced back up the order but couldn't catch Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen for second once up into third place. Mercedes calculated that the damage on the Briton's car cost him one second per lap and Hamilton finished 20 seconds adrift of the Finn.
"I lost a lot of performance from the car. It was just a racing incident," said Hamilton of his Turn One contact with Bottas.
Rosberg was never troubled out front once seizing the lead and his second win from two races at the start of the new season means he has opened up an early 17-point lead over Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship.
"I'm just taking it race-by-race, it is great to win two on the trot, but now it's onto the next race," said a beaming Rosberg on the podium as he celebrated his 16th career win.
But Vettel is already 35 points adrift after his hopes of challenging Mercedes under the Bahrain floodlights were scuppered by an engine failure half-way round the formation lap.
The German, who qualified third, pulled off the road with plumes of smoke trailing from the back of his Ferrari - the first time Vettel has not taken the start of a race in his nine-year F1 career.
Ferrari's woe appeared to be compounded when Raikkonen made a terrible getaway himself but, after impressively making short work of recovering his position, the Finn moved up to second place after the first stops.
The Finn has now finished second five times at the Bahrain GP - including four times in the five seasons since his F1 comeback - but has yet to win.
With Vettel out of the running, his former team-mate at Red Bull Daniel Ricciardo was able to match his quietly-impressive fourth place from Melbourne - back-to-back 12-point hauls which place the Australia a surprise early third in the standings.
Ricciardo was involved in plenty of the overtaking moves during an action-packed race, but arguably not quite as many as Romain Grosjean who incredibly went one better than the already stunning result which saw the new Haas team finish sixth on their debut in Australia.
Running an aggressive strategy which saw him complete three of his four stints on the quickest available tyre, the supersoft, Grosjean pulled off a series of accomplished passes to finish fifth.
The Frenchman's 18 points in two races place the American newcomers fifth in the Constructors' Championship.
2015's rookie of the year Max Verstappen covered himself in less glory at the season-opener, but the teenage Dutch star registered his points of the year with a typically fighting drive to sixth ahead of the second Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat.
Williams had taken advantage of the chaotic first corner to run second and third but Felipe Massa and Bottas, who had continued on after his tangle with Hamilton, struggled thereafter on two-stop strategies and finished in lapped eight and ninth places respectively.
Although initially coming off better from his tangle with the Mercedes, Bottas was deemed to have been at fault by the stewards who handed him a drive-through penalty.
However, it proved a rather more memorable race for the least-experienced driver in the field as McLaren's stand-in for the injured Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, added his name to the list of drivers who have scored points on their F1 debut. The GP2 champion claimed the final point in 10th.
"For my F1 debut I can be very happy with that," Vandoorne told Sky F1. "Since the beginning of the weekend I've felt comfortable. I just tried not to make mistakes. I came in without any expectations so to come away with one point is fantastic."
McLaren suffered early disappointment when Jenson Button's engine cut out early on but, having had to wait six races to open their points account in 2015, the Honda-powered giants are at least up and running at the second attempt this year courtesy of Vandoorne's tenth place. That, however, was of little consolation to a frustrated Button.
"It's a real shame because this weekend I think we've made good progress," said the former world champion. "I think we could have pulled home some good points today."
Bahrain GP result
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 57 laps
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +10.3s
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +30.1s
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, +62.5s
5. Romain Grosjean, Haas, +78.3s
6. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, +80.9s
7. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, +1 lap
8. Felipe Massa, Williams, +1 lap
9. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, +1 lap
10. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, +1 lap
11. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, +1 lap
12. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +1 lap
13. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, +1 lap
14. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +1 lap
15. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, +1 lap
16. Sergio Perez, Force India, +1 lap
17. Rio Haryanto, Manor, +1 lap
DNF Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso
DNF Esteban Gutierrez, Haas
DNF Jenson Button, McLaren
DNS Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
DNS Jolyon Palmer, Renault
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