F1: Nico Rosberg wins dramatic Chinese Grand Prix to extend championship lead

Nico Rosberg finished 37 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel to win his sixth consecutive Grand Prix and extend his drivers championship lead as a dramatic race unfolded behind him

Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton with a thumping victory in the Chinese Grand Prix. Hamilton, who started from last after his engine expired in qualifying, stopped five times in a race brimming with drama, and eventually crossed the line in seventh place.

It means that Rosberg, who has become only the fourth driver in the sports history to win six races in succession – a streak that stretches back to last year – now holds a 36-point lead over Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel, involved in a first-corner collision with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, finished second following an exemplary recovery drive, with Red Bulls Daniil Kvyat securing the final spot on the podium. Despite a number of incidents and plenty of excitement, there were no retirements at all in the race.

Earlier this week, Hamilton predicted that Rosberg would be guaranteed an easy weekend after he was dealt a five-place grid penalty following a gearbox change. However, not even Hamilton, nor Rosberg for that matter, would have envisaged just how straightforward it would prove to be.

After Vettel and Raikkonen collided with each other at the opening corner both having to take on replacement front wings and then Daniel Ricciardo, who had beaten Rosberg off the line, suffered a tyre blow-out on the following lap, Rosbergs main opposition had been wiped out in the opening minutes of the race.

At the back of the field, Felipe Nasr attempted to avoid Raikkonen and Vettel but instead bumped into Hamilton, causing the latter to lose his front wing. The world champion was forced into the pit lane and emerged last but one in the order.

A safety car was deployed to clear the debris following Ricciardos tyre blow-out, at which point Mercedes opted to call Hamilton in once more. With the safety car on track, their theory was for Hamilton to do only one lap on the supersoft tyre compound – the fastest but least durable of the three compounds available – before pitting again for the soft-tyre option.

Hamilton had stopped three times in the opening six laps but with the safety car still on track, he was right on the back of the pack when the race got under way again on lap nine. From there, Hamilton, who also suffered damage to the floor of his Mercedes in his first-corner prang, was on a recovery drive, joined by Raikkonen in 19th and Vettel 15th.

The championship protagonists sets about carving their way through the field and by the next round of pit-stops, the trio had made light work of much of the opposition with Vettel and Hamilton in particular holding nothing back to provide great entertainment.

Hamilton was third at the time of his fourth stop on lap 21 and he emerged midway through the order, but that was where his charge with the damage to his car now taking more of an effect on his performance stopped.

Lewis, give it everything youve got, was the call from Hamiltons team but his response was telling. I am, he replied and by lap 30 he was back in the pits for a fifth and final time.

Hamilton then negotiated the slower cars with ease but Felipe Massa was proving an altogether different animal in the Williams, allowing both Ricciardo and Raikkonen to pass the limping Briton. Hamilton could manage no better than seventh in what will be a weekend to forget for the defending world champion.

There were no such concerns for Vettel who despite being only 15th in the opening phase of the race stormed all the way back through the pack to finish nearly 40 seconds behind a cruising Rosberg, with Kvyat in third.

Rosberg said: The start was not quite good enough but then I had a really quick car today, so I was feeling great. I attacked Daniel [Ricciardo] straightaway and then I managed to pull a good gap after that.

Reflecting on the drama behind, the German added: I didnt see anything, I had no idea. I just know the gap and I just knew I had to extend it as much as possible.

Second-placed Vettel said: It was a very entertaining race, a lot of cars that I had to overtake it was good fun. The car was great this afternoon, so a big thanks to the team for that.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/apr/17/chinese-grand-prix-f1-nico-rosberg

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