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Nico Rosberg joins elite company after third win at F1 China Grand Prix

By Philip Duncan

Published 18/04/2016

Number one: Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team celebrate after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai
Number one: Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team celebrate after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton

Nico Rosberg's victory at the Chinese Grand Prix marked only the 10th time in Formula One history where a driver has won the opening three races of the season - with the previous nine going on to win the world championship.

Rosberg sauntered to the chequered flag at the Shanghai International Circuit to claim a hat-trick of victories in 2016 and his sixth in succession - a streak which stretches back to last year - and one which can only be matched by Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, was the last driver to start the year with three consecutive wins, but Rosberg insists it does not make him a shoo-in for the title.

"Yes, but they didn't have Lewis Hamilton as their team-mate," said Rosberg when informed of the statistic.

"I don't see it that way at all. It is a handful of races. Yes, it is going well, but this is the longest season in F1 history with Lewis Hamilton as my team-mate, a double world champion, who has been hard to beat in the past three years.

"It is going to be a great battle. I have a little bit of an advantage now which is good, better that way than the other way, but that is it really. I am just enjoying it and making the most of it race by race."

With the 17th win of his career, Rosberg has now surpassed Sir Stirling Moss to claim the rather unwanted record of most grand prix victories without a championship.

Hamilton admitted he does not have "any more jokers available" after falling 36 points behind his Mercedes team-mate following a dramatic Chinese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen tripped over one another at turn one and Felipe Nasr, in attempting to avoid the two team-mates, rammed into Hamilton, starting from last on the grid after his engine expired in qualifying.

Hamilton lost his front wing in the collision and was forced to stop, and when Daniel Ricciardo, who had beaten Rosberg off the line, suffered a tyre blow-out on the following lap, the German's opposition had been wiped out in a matter of thrilling minutes.

Rosberg subsequently cruised to a 38-second victory, his sixth in succession stretching back to last season, over Vettel, who recovered to finish second, and the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat.

Hamilton, who limped home in seventh, despite 18 overtakes, shared an embrace with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on his arrival at the team motorhome before the Briton whispered into his ear, "Difficult one".

Hamilton, facing the media, continued: "There's a long, long way to go. Lots can happen. It is just I don't have any more jokers available really.

"It was a pretty horrifying race really, but there were some good experiences, there was some good overtaking."

Rosberg opened up a 29-point lead over Hamilton in 2014 before the Briton reeled him in to win the championship.

And Hamilton continued to remain upbeat last night.

"I definitely don't feel the dark cloud I've had over me in the past right now," he added. "Of course it's a trying time. But this is a part of motor racing. This is a part of the journey."

Ricciardo recovered to finish fourth with Raikkonen fifth and Felipe Massa sixth, as all 22 cars finished the race.

Belfast Telegraph

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