Rosberg’s team mate Lewis Hamilton dropped to ninth on the opening lap after Turn 1 contact with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, but in a damaged car fought his way back to secure a lonely final podium place. The second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel failed to start after a suspected engine failure on the formation lap.
Rosberg didn’t put a wheel wrong in Bahrain’s twilight. As Hamilton and Raikkonen made poor starts, he sped into a lead that was never seriously contested, thus increasing his championship lead.
Raikkonen kept the pressure up as they both ran the supersoft Pirelli tyres on which they had qualified before switching to softs. Hamilton, with time to make up after being half spun in the first corner by an over-enthusiastic Bottas (who was given a drive-through penalty for his pains), switched to mediums on his first stop, as he embarked on yet another 2016 damage-limitation race.
Raikkonen got close to Rosberg at times, but never close enough as Rosberg always had an answer. They each switched back to supersofts in their second stops, as did Hamilton, but it was clear the race lay between Rosberg and Raikkonen. They shadowed each other yet again in their final stops, back to softs, but in the end the Mercedes driver was 10.2s ahead.
Hamilton, who had been breathtaking on the mediums as he matched the leaders, took softs for his final stint and for a while closed in, but the first-lap damage to his car was too limiting and he finished a distant third.
Rosberg thus leads the world championship with 50 points to his team mate’s 33, with fourth-placed Daniel Ricciardo, now third overall for Red Bull, on 24 after another fast and fighting race.
With an open tyre choice, Romain Grosjean and Haas again proved stars, the Frenchman surviving one scare with a long pit stop to take an excellent fifth – one place better than the newcomers did on their debut in Australia. As a result, he is ahead of Vettel in the championship, and equal with Raikkonen on 18 points.
Max Verstappen showed what could have happened in Melbourne with a feisty run to sixth for Toro Rosso, leading home Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat as both bettered the Williams duo. Felipe Massa tried to get by with a two-stopper, but lost too much time on his medium tyres and had to be satisfied with eighth ahead of Bottas.
In 10th place Stoffel Vandoorne fulfilled all his promise on a day when team mate Jenson Button’s McLaren let him down, to score the final point on his debut for the Woking team after a swift and intelligent performance.
After starting from the pit lane Kevin Magnussen had battles throughout his afternoon on his way to 11th for Renault, leading home Marcus Ericsson who was mighty on mediums for Sauber as he held off one of the race’s other young stars, Pascal Wehrlein who drove the supersoft-shod wheels off his Manor in the closing laps as he hounded the blue and yellow car.
Felipe Nasr brought the second Sauber home 14th as Force India had a horrible race which yielded only 16th and 17th places for Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, the latter making four stops and the former suffering debris damage early on.
Rio Haryanto was the final finisher in the second Manor, as Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez, Button and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer joined Vettel on the side lines.
The 2016 qualifying format may still be a contentious issue, but the choice of three tyre compounds really has spiced things up and created a great race with battles throughout the field for the 57 laps.
|4||DANIEL RICCIARDO||AUS||RED BULL RACING||+62.494s||12|
|6||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NED||TORO ROSSO||+80.929s||8|
|7||DANIIL KVYAT||RUS||RED BULL RACING||+1 lap||6|
|8||FELIPE MASSA||BRA||WILLIAMS||+1 lap||4|
|9||VALTTERI BOTTAS||FIN||WILLIAMS||+1 lap||2|
|10||STOFFEL VANDOORNE||BEL||MCLAREN||+1 lap||1|
|11||KEVIN MAGNUSSEN||DEN||RENAULT||+1 lap||0|
|12||MARCUS ERICSSON||SWE||SAUBER||+1 lap||0|
|13||PASCAL WEHRLEIN||GER||MANOR||+1 lap||0|
|14||FELIPE NASR||BRA||SAUBER||+1 lap||0|
|15||NICO HULKENBERG||GER||FORCE INDIA||+1 lap||0|
|16||SERGIO PEREZ||MEX||FORCE INDIA||+1 lap||0|
|17||RIO HARYANTO||INA||MANOR||+1 lap||0|
|NC||CARLOS SAINZ||ESP||TORO ROSSO||DNF||0|
Fastest lap – Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:34.482 (L41)
Note – Vettel and Palmer did not start following technical problems on the formation lap. Magnussen started the race from the pit lane as penalty for failing to stop for a mandatory weight check during FP2.