Nico Rosberg took a third consecutive win with a dominant drive at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating world championship-winning team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a comfortable eight seconds as Kimi Räikkönen took third place ahead of Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who rose from 15th on the grid to take fourth place.
Racing into the lead from pole position at the start, Rosberg was always in control and across his opening stint on used supersoft tyres he opened up a gap of almost five seconds to Hamilton in second place.
The Briton had to fend off challenges from Räikkönen and Force India’s fourth-on-the-grid Sergio Perez at the start but he soon settled into second place. Perez held his starting position ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Further back Vettel was already making up ground, rising from 15th to 12th by the end of lap one, despite making contact with Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso. Having started on the soft prime tyre , the German then briefly rose to second place as the supersoft starters around him began to pit, with Rosberg stopping on lap nine and Hamilton following his team-mate a lap later.
At the start of the second stint Roberg began to stretch his legs, broadening the gap to 7s but Hamilton then began to push, chopping two seconds off the deficit by lap 22 and then reducing it by a further 2.5s over the next few laps.
With Rosberg in more trouble with tyres than his team-mate Hamilton elected to extend the stint, hoping to keep up the momentum and erase the deficit as Rosberg’s pace dropped and he worked through his pit stop, which came at the end of lap 31.
The German switched to soft tyres and began to close on Hamilton in a bid to cover any decision by Hamilton’s crew to put the Briton on the more fragile but significantly faster supersoft tyres for his final stint. He eventually brought matters under control with a 10s gap to his team-mate with 15 laps remaining.
The threat of Hamilton on supersofts never materialized, however, and when the Briton made his final visit to pit lane he took on soft tyres and emerged 12s adrift of his team-mate. Rosberg then controlled matters until the chequered flag to finish 8.2s in front to claim his sixth win of the year and his third in a row.
Behind them Räikkönen ploughed a lonely furrow in third place, having got past team-mate Vettel as the German’s tyres faded towards the end of his first soft-tyre stint.
Vettel pitted on lap 24 for another set of softs and then with 15 laps to go the German switched to the quicker supesofts. The injection of pace allowed him to haul himself up to an excellent fourth place, passing Ricciardo and Perez in the closing stages.
Perez clung onto fifth ahead of Ricciardo, with Nico Hulkenber finishing seventh, ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa.
Romain Grosjean, in his final race for Lotus, worked a three-strategy well to surge through to the points positions in the final stages and he finished ninth ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat.
Carlos Sainz’s race was hampered by a slow first pit stop and he finished in 11th place ahead of team-mate Verstappen. Jenson Button was 13th for McLaren, aherad of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who collided with Button in the pits and was forced to make an additional stop as a result.
Marcus Ericsson beat team-mate Felipe Nasr to take P15, while Fernando Alonso was 17th, the Spaniard having collided with Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado at the start. Will Stevens beat Manor team-mate Roberto Merhi by taking 18th place.
2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Race
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38:30.175
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +8.271
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +19.430
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +43.735
5 Sergio Perez Force India +63.952
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing +65.010
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +93.618
8 Felipe Massa Williams +97.751
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team +98.201
10 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing +102.371
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso +103.525
12 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +1 lap
13 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +1 lap
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 lap
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren +2 laps
18 Will Stevens Manor +2 laps
19 Roberto Merhi Manor +3 laps
R Pastor Maldonado Lotus Collision