Lewis Hamilton secured victory and closed the gap to teammate Nico Rosberg in the championship standings. It was a lights to flag victory for the Brit whilst Rosberg needed to recover after a difficult start.
After disappointing starts in the past few races, Hamilton had been practicing race starts like a mad man before the race and got away from the line perfectly. It looked like it was going to be a good start for Rosberg alongside him, but he was challenged off of the line by Daniel Ricciardo, on the faster Super Soft tyre. Rosberg slipped back into third.
Behind them, both Force India drivers were in the wars. Nico Hulkenberg had trouble turning and made contact with Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas at the start of the race, causing damage to the front end of his Force India. Hulkenberg and Bottas both pitted, but only Bottas would come out again, with Hulkenberg retiring from the race in the early stages. Teammate Sergio Perez was hit from behind by Daniil Kvyat and sent into a spin, dropping him back through the field. Kvyat was later given a ten second penalty.
Max Verstappen had gotten an uncharacteristic poor start and was now having to defend against Sebastian Vettel behind him. The teenager managed to hold the position despite Vettel coming alongside him, and Verstappen set off to catch up with Raikkonen ahead of him.
The first set of pit stops took Raikkonen out of the battle. The Ferrari team had tried the undercut on those ahead of them, but released Raikkonen into traffic that meant Verstappen was right on the Finn’s tail after the session. With DRS, Verstappen easily slipped past Raikkonen to take fourth.
Verstappen was a man on a mission, chasing after Rosberg to try to take a podium in a country he’s not legally old enough to drink without supervision in. The teenager managed to get within DRS range, but wasn’t quite close enough. The team was keen to not throw the tyres away though, warning Verstappen to keep the strategy. Verstappen came back with what could be an iconic quote from the youngster: “I’m not here to finish fourth”.
Verstappen would fall away from Rosberg, thinking about his tyres. Maybe a little too much, though, as the Red Bull driver came into the pits without getting the call to box. There was nobody ready waiting for him when he arrived at the box. The team worked as quickly as they could, putting medium tyres on the Verstappen’s car and sending him on his way.
It was clear Verstappen was in trouble though. The Red Bull was moving very slowly, almost no sound coming from the engine. Verstappen explained that there was something hitting the engine. It was later discovered to be a gear box failure. Verstappen stopped on track and that would effectively ruin Red Bull’s weekend.
The virtual safety car was deployed, which effectively gave Mercedes a free pit stop. Rosberg came out ahead of Ricciardo on fresher tyres that would see him to the end of the race. There was little hope of the Red Bull regaining third, and Ricciardo turned to defending against Raikkonen behind him.
Raikkonen was being closely followed by Vettel and just when Ferrari might have been getting that itch to sort out the battle between their drivers, Raikkonen was given the instruction to pit. Disaster. Raikkonen was released from the stops with the wheel gun still attached and the wheel not properly screwed onto the car. He stopped at the end of the pit lane but it was too late. No reversing in the pit lane meant there was nothing he could do, and Raikkonen retired from the race.
The next battle on track would be for fifth. Carlos Sainz was on very old soft tyres, but holding strong against Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso behind him. Massa, the best placed Williams, was doing his best to close the gap to Force India in the constructors, whilst Alonso was simply hungry for points.
A mistake from Sainz caught Massa off guard. Alonso took the opportunity to move up the inside of Massa, something Massa apparently didn’t see. The Brazilian shut the door on the McLaren driver, the pair’s wheels touching, but Alonso moved forward, taking sixth. Massa would later pit due to a puncture, but wouldn’t lose a place.
Alonso was now focused on Sainz, running all over the back of the younger Spaniard’s car. With DRS aid, Alonso took the outside line. Despite locking up the front left tyre, he managed to get ahead, taking fifth place in the closing stages of the race.
By this point, Hamilton had an incredible lead at the front of the field, taking an easy first place ahead of Rosberg. It was what he needed to revive his championship hopes. Ricciardo joined them on the podium. Third wasn’t what the Red Bull team wanted after the fantastic start, but it was more points from Ferrari, an important battle in the constructors’ championship.
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