Nico Rosberg untouchable in first Baku Grand Prix


Nico Rosberg - Credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

Nico Rosberg returned to his winning ways after taking the chequered flag in a trouble-free European Grand Prix in Baku.

The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver finished the Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit 16.696 seconds ahead of the Scuderia Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, with no-one able to match the pace of the leader as he led the race from start to finish, with Rosberg extending his lead in the championship as a result.

There was a small incident into Turn 1 where Esteban Gutierrez locked up heading into the corner, leading to a small shunt between the Mexican and Nico Hulkenberg, with damage sustained to Gutierrez’s front wing.  But there was none of the expected first lap carnage.

Vettel didn’t have enough power to catch up to Rosberg so he had to settle for second, with the German disobeying orders to pit which ultimately turned out to be the correct decision.  Vettel finished in front of the Sahara Force India of Sergio Perez, the second podium of the 2016 Formula 1 season for the Mexican after finishing third at the Monaco Grand Prix.  Perez drove strongly throughout, moving up two places at the start and then making his strategy work by passing a number of cars on an alternative strategy to move into podium contention, before passing Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap.

Raikkonen finished fourth in the second Ferrari, with the Finn receiving a five-second time penalty after crossing the white line of the entry to the pit lane, meaning Perez was going to finish on the podium anyway had he finished within five seconds of the Finn.  Having been running second after playing the undercut well in the pit stop cycle but with this penalty looming Ferrari made Raikkonen allow team-mate Vettel to overtake him to move into second to keep him out of Perez’s range.

After a disappointing qualifying for Lewis Hamilton after crashing out, he was able to progress from tenth to fifth, but for much of the race the Briton was struggling with his W07 after encountering a problem with the engine recovery system. Repeatedly he was asking Mercedes for help in solving the problem as he was loosing time behind Perez. With this season’s radio communication restrictions, the team were unable to help Hamilton to fix the problem, leading to him to fix the problem himself in the closing stages but it proved to be too late.

Valtteri Bottas finished the Grand Prix in sixth for Williams Martini Racing in a relatively quiet race for him. Behind him was the Red Bull Racing of Daniel Ricciardo who was looking strong early on in the race. But had to settle for seventh ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen.

With these fresher tyres, both drivers were able to have a late pass on the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, who was looking strong in seventh until the two Red Bull’s gained on him. Hulkenberg was the first of those to use a different strategy, having started on the Soft Pirelli compound before finishing the race on the Supersofts.

Completing the top ten was the second Williams of Felipe Massa who like his team-mate had a relatively quiet race, finishing just over seven seconds shy of Hulkenberg.

Just missing out of the top ten was the McLaren-Honda of Jenson Button, with the Briton having a good race and was battling for positions within the top ten but was unable to keep these positions until the chequered flag, ultimately ending nineteen seconds behind Massa.

Behind him and the first of the lapped runners was the Sauber of Felipe Nasr in twelfth, his best result of the season so far ahead of the Haas F1 of Romain Grosjean, while Kevin Magnussen was fourteenth, after a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox saw him start from the pit lane after he qualified twenty-first for Renault Sport F1.  The Dane was running as high as eleventh before dropping a handful of places over the closing stages.

Jolyon Palmer finished the Grand Prix behind his Renault team-mate in fifteenth ahead of Marcus Ericsson in the second Sauber.  Rio Haryanto finished a relatively quiet race for Manor Racing, finishing two laps behind race winner Rosberg, with the Indonesian racer having to pit at the end of the opening lap to repair damage to his MRT05 and always from there likely to struggle to recover, especially without any safety car interventions, which ahead of the race many were predicting there to be a few.

His team-mate Pascal Wehrlein retired from the Grand Prix on lap 42, with the German having a good race up until his retirement.  The Mercedes-protege had run as high as eighth in the early stages, but coming into Turn 1, Wehrlein was unable to use his brakes leading to him going down the escape road and into retirement, the first retirement of his Formula 1 career.

Wehrlein wasn’t the only retirement of the Grand Prix as the two Scuderia Toro Rosso retired. After starting sixth, Daniil Kvyat had a disappointing race, completing only eight laps before retiring due to a suspected suspension issue. Carlos Sainz Jr also experienced a similar problem later on in the race on lap 33, when he locked up coming into Turn 1, leading to him going down the same escape road that Wehrlein did and retiring the car.

The final retirement was Fernando Alonso after he was told by his engineers to retire in the pits with a terminal problem on his McLaren-Honda.  This was the third retirement of the season with his performance looking promising throughout the race after running inside the top ten, with team-mate Button following closely behind.

But no one had an answer to Nico Rosberg, who after three disappointing results in Spain, Monaco and Canada returned to winning ways.

Baku Street Circuit Race Result

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMGAP 
16Nico RosbergGERMercedes1h:32:52.366
25Sebastian VettelGERFerrari16.696
311Sergio PerezMEXForce India-Mercedes25.241
47Kimi RaikkonenFINFerrari33.102
544Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes56.335
677Valtteri BottasFINWilliams-Mercedes1:00.886
73Daniel RicciardoAUSRed Bull-Tag Heuer1:09.229
833Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull-Tag Heuer1:10.696
927Nico HulkenbergGERForce India-Mercedes1:17.708
1019Felipe MassaBRZWilliams-Mercedes1:25.375
1122Jenson ButtonGBRMcLaren-Honda1:44.817
1212Felipe NasrBRZSauber-Ferrari1 Lap
138Romain GrosjeanFRAHaas-Ferrari1 Lap
1420Kevin MagnussenDNKRenault1 Lap
1530Jolyon PalmerGBRRenault1 Lap
1621Esteban GutierrezMEXHaas-Ferrari1 Lap
179Marcus EricssonSWESauber-Ferrari1 Lap
1888Rio HaryantoINOManor-Mercedes2 Laps
-14Fernando AlonsoESPMcLaren-HondaRetirement
-94Pascal WehrleinGERManor-MercedesBrakes
-55Carlos Sainz JrESPToro Rosso-RenaultRetirement
-26Daniil KvyatRUSToro Rosso-RenaultRetirement