Nico Rosberg’s dream start to the 2016 season continued as the German took his second consecutive victory and his first in Bahrain and his first at the Gulf circuit. Kimi Raikkonen took his fifth second place with Lewis Hamilton recovering to third after a first-corner collision.
Before the start there was disappointment for Ferrari as Sebastian Vettel, set to start from third, slowed on the formation lap with smoke billowing from the back of his car.
His failure to start, the first of his career, meant a space opened on the grid beside Raikkonen and in front of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, starting from fifth.
The Australian couldn’t capitalise, however, and when the lights went out he made a poor start. That allowed Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to surge past.
Hamilton too had started badly and as Rosberg powered into the lead and Raikkonen stole second Hamilton fell back towards Bottas.
The Finn tried to push past the champion on the inside of Turn One but they clashed. Ricciardo got involved too, losing part of his front wing.
However, while Hamilton and Bottas, who would later be penalised for causing the collision, fell back, Ricciardo managed to hold position and he slotted into third.
At the front Rosberg began to pull away rapidly and he soon built up a sizeable lead over Raikkonen, with the Finn later commenting that the Mercedes driver was “a straight in front after a few laps”.
That set the pattern for the top two positions as Rosberg managed his pace and comfortably kept Raikkonen at bay for the whole race.
Behind them, Ricciardo dived for the pits on lap six, but while he did take on new tyres, he chose not to take a new wing and he rejoined still nursing the damage but with greater pace thanks to hi new tyres. Across his first stint he battled back to third.
Hamilton, though, was also recovering from his earlier travails and despite sustaining debilitating floor damage, the champion rapidly made his way through the order on medium tyres, which he took onboard on lap 13. He passed Ricciardo on lap 17 and that spelled the end of any hopes the Australian had of a podium finish.
He settled into fourth spot and though he relinquished it twice as the strategies played out, his final stint on medium tyres, saw him solidify the result and he took his second fourth place in a row to score 12 points and to take third in the Drivers’ standings from the unfortunate Vettel.
Although Hamilton got to within five seconds of Raikkonen at one stage, he could not match the Finn’s pace and in the final stint he dropped back as he save his tyres in the hope of a safety car period that never came.
With Ricciardo fourth, fifth place went to Romain Grosjean, as Haas again surprised. The Frenchman worked his way through three sets of supersofts as he rose from ninth on the grid and though he couldn’t find the pace to challenger Ricciardo he still managed to better his opening result in Australia by one position. The new team now sits fifth in the Constructors’ Standings, ahead of Toro Rosso, Force India, McLaren, Renault, Sauber and Manor.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen took another good result for the Italian squad with sixth place, though there was disappointment for the Faenza team as Carlos Sainz failed to finish.
Daniil Kvyat delivered an excellent performance. Starting 15th, the Russian ran two stints on soft tyres to avoid traffic and rise through the order before using two superbly aggressive stints on supersofts to claim seventh place. The run included a brave pass on Felipe Massa on the final lap.
Massa took eighth ahead of team-mate Bottas, while the final point went to McLaren rookie Stoffel Vandoorne who drove a faultless race to the points from 12th on the grid. It was a less successful day for team-mate Jenson Button, with the veteran racer exiting the race with power loss on lap six.
2016 Bahrain Grand Prix – Race
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 57 laps – 1h33m34.696s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +10.282
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +30.148
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing +62.494
5 Romain Grosjean Haas +78.299
6 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +80.929
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing +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 Racing +1 lap
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 lap 3
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1 lap 4
16 Sergio Perez Force India +1 lap 3
17 Rio Haryanto Manor Racing +1 lap 3
18 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso DNF 3
19 Esteban Gutierrez Haas DNF 2
20 Jenson Button McLaren DNF 0
21 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari DNS 0
22 Jolyon Palmier Renault DNS 0