Nico Rosberg once again took control of the F1 Drivers’ Championship standings as he sealed his eighth win of the 2016 season just half a second clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Riccirado who almost overhauled the German in the final stages of the race. Lewis Hamilton was third.
The race got off to a dramatic start as a hard charging Nico Hulkenberg powered forward from eighth on the grid. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was also trying to get ahead, however, and as the Spaniard moved across the pair collided. Hulkenberg was pitched into the pit wall. With his Force India heavily damaged and with debris strewn across the track the Safety Car was swiftly deployed, neutralizing the race.
At the front, pole position man Rosberg had made a good start and held the lead ahead of Ricciardo who had also made a good getaway. Behind them, Lewis Hamilton held third place.
However, fourth-on-the-grid Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull made a poor start and dropped back to eight place under the safety car. The Dutch teenager would spend the rest of the race toiling on the fringes of the top 10, mostly with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, before hauling himself up to P6 in the final third of the race.
When the safety car left the track Rosberg began to cement himself into the lead and by the time of the first round of stops, the German was seven seconds ahead of the Australian, Hamilton a further four seconds back. At the rear of the field Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had started in P22 due to a mechanical issue in qualifying, was already up to P10 as he passed slower cars and his soft tyres allowed him to stay out longer than rivals.
For the drivers at the front the second stint saw Mercedes losed some ground as Ricciardo, on a second set of supersofts reduced Rosberg’s advantage to less than three seconds. Hamilton, struggling with brake issues, was chased down by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and on lap 34 the Finn muscled his way past to claim P3 just before they made their second stop
Vettel, meanwhile, was continuing to scythe through the order and by the time of his second stop he was sixth.
As the final third of the race approached Hamilton made a last roll of the dice, making a third tyre stop on lap 45 for ultrasoft tyres.
Fearing that Raikkonen might be overahauled in the final laps if he stayed out on old tyres, Ferrari reacted. The stop was not smooth, however, and the Finn emerged behind the champion, leading him to question the mechanics of the stop.
At the front Rosberg was looking secure, but on lap 47 Red Bull too gambled. With the gap back to Hamilton now more than safe thanks to his stop, Ricciardo pitted for supersoft tyres.
The Australian emerged some 27 seconds behind Rosberg and after briefly considering a reactive stop, Mercedes opted to leave Rosberg out on track.
Across 14 intensely exciting laps Ricciardo almost succeeded. Within five laps he had taken more than 10 seconds out of Rosberg’s advantage and the seconds continued to fall away. He continued to press and by the final sector of the final lap he was inside DRS range as he and Rosberg hit traffic. The German held his nerve, however, and he kept Ricciardo at bay to cross the line just 0.488s ahead of the Red Bull.
With Hamilton third ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel’s superb driver from P22 led to a deserved fifth place. Verstappen passed McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in the final third to take sixth place and behind the Spaniard Sergio Perez was eighth for Force India. The final points positions were taken by Kvyat and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen.