Rosberg dominates in Bahrain

The hottest driver in Formula One extends his win streak to five races
Chosen by Mercedes to be the 2016 F1 Champion, the hottest driver in F1 extends his win streak to five races

Taking advantage of another poor start from teammate and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg stormed from the second grid spot to the lead at the start of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. From there, the Mercedes AMG Petronas driver dominated the proceedings, leading every lap en route to his fifth consecutive Formula One victory in an entertaining race under the flood lights in the island country. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was second with Hamilton rounding out the podium.

The drama started before the lights went out as third-place qualifier Sebastian Vettel lost his Ferrari engine during the parade lap and was forced to retire. At the start, Hamilton got away slow surrendering the lead to Rosberg, before being hit by the oncoming Williams of Valtteri Bottas, who along with teammate Felipe Massa made a blistering start. The Finn would serve a drive-thru penalty for causing a collision, as the reigning World Champion slid back to eighth.

Rosberg was already clear of the competition at the end of the first lap as the clashes broke out behind him.

Bottas, damaged wing and all, recovered to run behind his teammate Felipe Massa at the end of the opening, the Williams pair in second and third, with Daniel Ricciardo fourth from Raikkonen.

With Hamilton down to ninth briefly, he would recover to seventh by the end of the opening lap behind Haas' Romain Grosjean, and continued to pick his way up the order, his superior Mercedes picking off the competition like taking candy from a baby.

Up front, however, Rosberg was stretching clear, 8.5secs ahead by lap six already and 12.3secs clear by lap 20 when Raikkonen ascended to second position ahead of the Williams and Ricciardo.

By Turn 1 Rosberg already had a big gap and he controlled the race from there to the end
By Turn 1 Rosberg already had a big gap and he controlled the race from there to the end

Though Rosberg had a slow final stop that allowed Raikkonen to get the gap down to less than five seconds, the Mercedes driver simply used his superior Mercedes to pull away from the Ferrari driver at the checkered to win by just over ten seconds.

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene says Kimi Raikkonen's performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix was "absolutely spectacular".

"I think the way that Kimi drove during the race was spectacular, absolutely spectacular," said Arrivabene after the race.

"If you look at at the overtake around the outside of Ricciardo, he reminded me of the driver from the old times.

"It was very, very good for me."

Arrivabene revealed, however, that the reason for Raikkonen's poor start was that his hand had slipped from the clutch paddle.

"I heard that most probably the finger slipped on the paddle," he said. "It's something that could happen and he got a lot of spin and lost a bit of time. But what he did afterwards was unbelievable."

Hamilton never quite getting himself into a position to mount a stronger challenge and wound up third.

Rosberg has moved 17 points clear of Hamilton in the overall standings, with Mercedes already 50 points clear in the constructors' championship from Ferrari, which has now suffered two straight DNFs

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was able to overcome some early contact to bring the Tag Heuer-powered machine home fourth, with Haas' Romain Grosjean turning in another impressive performance for the American team placing fifth. Max Verstappen was sixth with Massa 7th, Daniil Kvyat 8th and Bottas ninth.

The final championship point went to McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne filling in for Fernando Alonso. While teammate Jenson Button was forced to retire early, the Belgian came home 10th in his Formula One debut, earning his first World Championship point.

Formula One will be back in action two weeks from now at the Shanghai International Circuit. Rosberg currently leads Hamilton by 17 points in the championship standings. Ricciardo sits third.

QUOTES

MERCEDES

Nico Rosberg
Wow, what a weekend! I am so happy with how everything is working out at the moment. The start was definitely the key to my win – and that was a really great moment, as it was an area that we put a lot effort into before the race. Leading into Turn One was a relief, to be honest, as I could see in my mirrors that it was very busy behind me. But from then on I was able to control the pace and take the win. Strategy-wise we had to play it safe. It maybe wasn't the quickest option – but we had to cover the risk of a safety car. It was an almost perfect weekend for me – only qualifying could have been a fraction better. What a great start to the season – a big thank you to the guys and girls at the factories for this amazing car! Now I look forward to China, where I won my first ever Grand Prix, so I have plenty of positive energy heading there.

Hamilton charges hard in vain to catch Rosberg
Hamilton charges hard in vain to catch Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton
I didn't get a good start today – but it actually wasn't as bad as the last one. They were completely different incidents – both painful, but this one probably more so! In Melbourne I had loads of wheel spin but this time I just didn't get away as well as I needed to and that was down to me. If you start on pole and go backwards it quickly becomes a domino effect. It's so easy to get clipped from there and unfortunately that's what happened at Turn One. Nonetheless, I managed to climb back up there and at least get some points, so again it was good damage limitation. I could easily have not finished the race, so I'm glad it wasn't more points dropped in the end. I had so much damage on the car that I couldn't keep up with Kimi. I was fighting hard and did what I could with it – but it wasn't quite enough to catch him, so in the end I had to just save the tires in case of a safety car. A big thank you to all the fans who came out this weekend. I've got some incredible support here. I've been so well taken care of, so I look forward to coming back next year. Now I've got to wait until China for the next battle – but it's a track that has been good to me for many years, so hopefully things will turn around a bit for me there.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
Congratulations to Nico first of all. He's on a roll right now, with five race wins in a row, and he didn't put a foot wrong today – a clean start, clean turn one and then the race was his to control. He was quick when he needed to be, without taking any unnecessary risks, and deserved another great win. On Lewis' side, like in Melbourne he found himself P7 on the first lap – and, again, he used the fighting spirit we all know to get back to the podium. He got a poor getaway again – and we saw up and down the field that the new rules are causing much more variability in the starts, which was the intention. After that, he got hit by Bottas at the first corner in a pretty over-optimistic move, which damaged the car pretty badly on the front wing and the floor – it cost a good chunk of overall performance. From then on, it was about damage limitation and trying to get back through the field, even with a damaged car; Lewis did a great job at that. But it was clear in the middle of the race that he didn't have the pace to challenge Raikkonen, so then we just played it safe and brought everything home. We're just two rounds into a season of 21 races, so there are no trends to find in the results right now; as a team, we're pleased to have made this strong start to the year, and that we are taking our opportunities when they come. But it's clear that we would have seen a different race today if Sebastian had not been forced to retire before the start. So we will keep our feet on the ground and keep pushing for the next race in China.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
An eventful start to the race, with Sebastian dropping out and then the first corner incident for Lewis. There was a lot of damage to the car – particularly to the floor but also to the front wing – so we were very relieved to see that it still had enough performance to allow Lewis to start fighting back through the pack. We debated changing the front wing at the first stop but eventually decided that there was not sufficient damage to warrant the time loss in the box. Meanwhile, Nico made a strong start and had a good buffer after Kimi also lost out at Turn One, so it was a fairly straightforward race for him with no issues to report. For Lewis, he battled his way up to Kimi and we decided to try something different to get him past by taking the medium tire and targeting a two stop strategy. Initially this looked promising, as he was gaining on Kimi despite running a slower compound after the first stops. However, it soon became apparent that the medium was degrading as badly as the soft, so that strategy unfortunately began to unwind quite quickly. We therefore converted him back to a three stop – but of course Ferrari shadowed and we then had to cover that in turn with Nico. At that point, with all three cars on the same tires, we had to just hold position to the end. It was great for Nico to get the win and great damage limitation on Lewis' side to recover good points – if a big shame for him that he couldn't convert his amazing pole position into a win, through no fault of his own.

FERRARI

Kimi Raikkonen
“The start was not ideal, but luckily we did not lose too many places in the first lap. After that I tried to recover, and was able to overtake some cars and make the best out of it. We managed to do good pit-stops with the right tire choices and the speed was quite good, too. In the end we were catching up a bit on the Mercedes in front, but I never got close enough to try and pass Nico. Considering what happened in the first lap it’s a pretty ok result, it’s not what we want but we keep working and improving things. We are going in the right direction, but obviously it’s not ideal for the team to have only one car finishing the race. In this sport we always push to the limits and sometimes things can go wrong, this is not what we want but it’s part of racing. We know that the car is pretty good but we have certain things to improve and still some work to be done."

Sebastian Vettel
“It was a very short race today, I didn’t even break a drop of sweat… We had a failure, I saw a lot of smoke from behind and I lost power so we decided to stop the car. For sure it is frustrating, because in the end I am here to race. The problem came as a surprise, both for me and the whole team, as I was approaching Turn Eleven. Now we need to understand exactly the problem and learn from it. It is not ideal and we can’t be proud of it. But we had a good preparation over the winter, we are pushing very hard and we know that we can still improve. We still have a lot of races ahead of us, this is going to be a long year so even if today it was not good because I couldn’t score any point, we’ll make sure that the next race goes a lot better… Congratulations to Kimi. It was important that during the race we supported him on both sides of the garage."

RED BULL

Daniel Riccardo
"The race start was interesting. I didn't get off the line very well and I could see it was getting a bit chaotic into Turn 1. I tried to capitalize on it but ended up with damage on the front wing when Bottas and I came together. There was a moment that I thought I would have to pit for a new wing as the chunk that came off looked pretty substantial but we were able to hang in there for a few laps, racing with the Williams. The damage didn't affect me too much and we had a good race, although a little lonely towards the end, with some decent points scored."

Daniil Kvyat
"I am very pleased with today. It was quite difficult in the beginning but I would say the race went very well considering where we started from. We had good pace and a good result which I am very happy with. The strategy worked well and the team managed to avoid traffic on the track, when we saw an opportunity we went for it and it made the race good fun. We found a nice rhythm during the race. It was also good to see we were challenging the front runners, at the right tracks I think this will be interesting. We need to work on our qualifying and not repeat the disaster of yesterday, for China I will sit down with my side of the garage and analyze qualifying to improve that. It was a really good wheel to wheel race which I think is good for TV and I'm really happy to have been involved in that action. I leave here with the glass half full."

Christian Horner, Team Principal:
"A great performance from both drivers today. They both sustained damage in the first lap on an identical part of the car losing their front wing end plates which wasn't ideal. But the strategy from the team and with the pace of the cars, we were able to finish in a respectable fourth and seventh place. Dany made a great recovery from his difficult qualifying yesterday to put some decent points on the board. Daniel got absolutely everything out of the car he could to deliver another excellent race. All in all, it was a decent weekend for us with some valuable points in the bank."

HAAS F1

Romain Grosjean
“This is the American dream. It is unbelievable. I said we had to manage our expectations after we finished sixth in Australia, but here we finished fifth. There’s still a lot of things we can do better, from pit stops to the setup of the car and so on but, for now, this one is for the guys. I looked at their faces last night and they were all very tired because of the amount of work we’re doing. This is a massive reward. Really, just unbelievable. In the race, I had a good feeling in the car. It was an aggressive strategy, but managing tires has always been my strength in the past. Knowing we had a softer compound for this racetrack was something I liked. The car was set up well for the supersoft tires and I had a fantastic race. The car has a very good baseline. Everything is working well. I don’t think I’ve ever been as high as fifth in the driver standings. This is the first time in my career, I can’t believe it."

Esteban Gutierrez
“We have done a fantastic job. After a great start, where I gained a lot of positions, I was feeling very confident. I was very happy with how the car was feeling, and I was managing my tires and fuel well. Unfortunately, we had an issue with the front brake and we felt we couldn’t continue, so I had to retire. I’m now looking ahead to China. The team is performing really well. The speed is there and we have a great car. So, I will keep fighting for the next race."

Guenther Steiner
“A fantastic day for the team. Romain did a great job. The whole team did a great job. The only downside is that Esteban didn’t complete the race. We had a problem with the left-front brake, which we’re going to investigate further. Our aim now for China is to get two cars to the finish and to finish in the points. We’ve done a few pit stops, which gives us a lot of confidence. We can’t wait to go to the next race and to try and keep this form going."

TORO ROSSO

Max Verstappen
"I'm very happy with today's result! I think we bounced back very strongly from the first weekend and the whole team did a fantastic job – a great strategy, good pit-stops… It all worked out perfectly, including our tire management. The car was just doing what it had to do and felt good, we had great pace! It was an action-packed race and I really enjoyed it out there. To finish P6 is a fantastic way to finish the weekend and I'd like to thank the whole team for their excellent work. Also, this is the first time ever that the team scores points here in Bahrain, so I'm very happy to have changed this statistic – as I said before coming here, that was one of my objectives!"

Carlos Sainz
"What a shame to have had to retire. It was looking like a race where we could've certainly scored points, and it all just ended in a first-lap accident. We had a very good start to the race – obviously everyone in front of us was on the Super Soft tire while we started on Softs, but we still managed to gain a few places, so that was good. We were fighting and I was defending from a McLaren and Checo Perez, who suddenly arrived from behind and hit me, causing a puncture. From that point onwards my race was completely lost, as I was a lap down after my first pit-stop. Now we just need to put this behind us and look forward to the next race in China in two weeks' time, where we will come back stronger – we know that we have a good car and we can be fast."

Franz Tost (Team Principal)
"Taking into consideration that we started today's race from P10 and P11, to finish with a car in P6 is, on one side, a really good result but, on the other, it's a pity we had to retire the other car. I'd like to congratulate Max and the team, because both parties did a really good and professional job, both regarding strategy and pit-stops. Unfortunately, Carlos had a collision with Perez, which caused a puncture on the right-rear tire at the beginning of his lap. As a result of this, while driving back to the pits, the floor also got damaged… We therefore ended up deciding to call him in, even though originally we made him stay out just in case there was a Safety Car period. This never happened so we ended his race prematurely as the car was very unstable in the rear because of the amount of downforce we had lost. On a more positive note, this is the first time we score points here in Bahrain, so we can be happy with this, and we now look forward to China, where we expect to be quite competitive."

WILLIAMS

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
It was a very tough day. It was disappointing as it’s not even close to where we should be. We’ve got a great deal of work ahead of us and we need to face that challenge head on. Compared to our qualifying pace which was reasonable, our race pace just wasn’t there. Valtteri picked up some damage in the first lap in what the incident with Hamilton which obviously affected his race pace. He then got a drive-through penalty. Felipe’s race pace in the second stint on the medium tires wasn’t great, so we need to understand what has happened there as well. Overall, this was quite a difficult day for us, and one we need to recover from to come back stronger. We’ve got China in two weeks, so there’s a great deal of work ahead for all of us at Williams.

Felipe Massa
I had such a great start, going from seventh to second, but unfortunately the two-stop strategy didn’t work as expected and our pace on the medium tire was not very good. This allowed others on softer tires to get ahead and stay there. We started the weekend expecting more so it’s been a disappointing result, but hopefully we can learn from this weekend and have a better result in China.

Valtteri Bottas
I was expecting more from today and finishing ninth is a bit disappointing. I had a mega start, but unfortunately collided with Lewis in turn one which was a shame as it cost us both positions. The drive-through penalty then compromised our strategy a bit so it was always going to be difficult after that. I also damaged my front wing in that collision with a big piece missing which didn’t help our pace. The first two races of the season haven’t been great for us but we’re keeping upbeat and head to the next race hoping to make up for it.

SAUBER

Marcus Ericsson
Result: 12th. Start on soft tires, after 13 laps change to soft tires and after 29 laps change to medium tires
"The race was fun with a lot of fights. The start was a bit unfortunate. I had a lack of power during the first lap, so I dropped down some positions. Therefore, I was then stuck behind some competitors. Once I got by them, I had quite a strong race. Unfortunately, during the last stint, when I was running in the points, we had to save fuel. It was really difficult to defend my position. Overall, it's been a decent weekend on which we maximized our current package. Now we need to push hard to get our car more competitive."

Felipe Nasr
Result: 14th. Start on soft tires, after 10 change to soft tires, after 30 laps change to medium tires and after 47 laps change to supersoft tires
"Starting from the back of the field, it is positive that I was able to move up some positions. I did the best I could, but this result was the maximum today as I struggled again with the car. We have to analyze every detail in order to improve for the upcoming race."

FORCE INDIA

Nico Hulkenberg
"A difficult and disappointing race where not much went to plan. I made a poor start away from the line and was on the back foot going into turn one. Then suddenly three or four cars backed up on the apex and I nudged the back of somebody, which damaged my front wing and forced me to pit on lap one. From there onwards we tried to recover and pull off a two-stop strategy to get back in the race, but it proved very difficult. I was always in traffic and involved in lots of fights so my tire degradation was very high. I don't think we've seen our true pace today because the first lap destroyed my race and we were out of synch with everybody and always playing catch up."

Sergio Perez
"Not the best of weekends for me: I knew I had to get a good start after yesterday's qualifying result and I managed to pull off a great one, making up a lot of ground. Unfortunately, on lap two I made contact with [Carlos] Sainz, which ended up destroying my race. I was in his tow and when I went onto the marbles on the inside I just couldn't stop the car enough. It was a real shame as the pace was there to score a good amount of points. During the rest of the race we had a lot of tire degradation, but it's too early to draw conclusions about what happened today: we need to go back to HQ and look at the data to make sure we come back strongly in China. We haven't been very lucky in the first two races, even though our pace has been good, so I'm sure things will turn in our favor soon."

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
"Things just didn't go our way tonight with both Nico and Sergio heavily compromised right from the start with car damage. Nico suffered a broken front wing making his way through turn one and had to pit for a front wing change. It was a similar situation with Sergio who lost his front wing on the second lap. When you are in that situation, nearly a lap behind the rest of the pack and with a damaged car, the race is an uphill struggle. We tried our best to recover with strategy, but with no safety car or anything else to shake up the order we always knew points would be a long shot. We will need to regroup, take the positives from the weekend, such as the pace we showed in qualifying, and bounce back in China to score the points we deserve."

More to follow……

Results

Pos Driver Car/Engine Behind
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes/Mercedes 0.000s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari/Ferrari 10.282s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes/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/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
18 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari DNF
19 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari DNF
20 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda DNF
21 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari/Ferrari DNS
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault/Renault DNS

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