Shanghai – Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes eased to his sixth win a row with a comfortable victory in the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.
World champion and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished seventh after starting 22nd and last on the grid.
Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari was second ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniiel Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, making it a German one-two, followed by Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari and Felipe Massa in a Williams.
Rosberg has now won all three races of the 2016 Formula One season, adding to the last three last season.
He was overtaken on pole by Ricciardo in a Red Bull, but Ricciardo had to pit on the fifth lap after a rear tyre punctured caused by debris on the track from a collision by Ferrari team-mates Vettel and Raikkonen.
“The start was not quite good enough with Daniel but then I had a really quick car today, really great, attacked straight away and was able to pull a big gap after that,” Rosberg said.
Hamilton was also a victim of the Vettel-Raikkonen shunt, colliding with the Sauber of Felipe Nasr, who was tying to avoid Raikkonen.
Vettel apologised to the team over radio for the collision, blaming Kvyat for forcing him to take evasive action.
“You came like a torpedo,” he told the Russian driver in an exchange as the first three gathered after the race.
“I was racing,” Kvyat replied.
“You need to expect if you attack like crazy, you damage the car,” Vettel responded.
The safety car immediately came out to clear the debris, helping Raikkonen and Hamilton, who had earlier had to come in for repairs, to close the gap on the field.
The safety car phase led to a flurry of pit stops, which continued to be a feature of the first half of the race as teams juggled with tyre strategies – Hamilton made five stops on the first 32 of 56 laps – before the race picture became clearer.
Hamilton’s surge through the field came to an end when a problem with downforce caused by the earlier mishap saw both Ricciardo and Raikkonen go past him, and the Briton was unable to attack Massa for sixth place.
Rosberg took the chequered flag 37.776 seconds ahead of Vettel. Making up the top 10 after Hamilton were the Toro Rosso’s of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, followed by Valtteri Bottas in a Williams.
While Rosberg took the accolades after his 17th career win, the Vettel-Raikkonen collision continued to dominate the podium interviews.
“It is difficult to judge how it was from Daniil Kvyat’s point of view,” Vettel said.
“Kimi locked up and I went wide to overtake him, Daniil was trying to do the same thing. He was coming with a lot of speed into that gap. I was very surprised and Kimi was coming across. In the end I was lucky because I could continue and he could continue.
“It was a very entertaining race.”
Kvyat said: “Vice-versa. I had a really good start, you see the gap and go for it. It’s a risky move, I agree with Seb, but I am on the podium, he’s on the podium.”
Hamilton remained upbeat, telling Sky Sports the car was “like a four-poster bed” after the suspension was probably damaged.
“I got a good start and I tried to avoid whatever was happening in front of me but I got tangled in it,” he said.
“Every time I did a stop I was having to come through again. At the end there was nothing left in the tyres but that’s racing. Onwards and upwards.”
Rosberg moves to 75 points in the drivers’ standings, ahead of Hamilton on 39, Ricciardo on 36 and Vettel on 33 as the F1 season now moves to the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in two weeks.