Rosberg on top again but Lewis stays in touch
Lewis Hamilton feared he would lose even further ground to Nico Rosberg in the Formula One World Championship after his first-corner collision in yesterday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
Mercedes driver Rosberg, who now holds a 17-point lead in the title race, benefited from team-mate Hamilton's coming-together with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas to claim his second victory in as many grands prix.
Pole-sitter Hamilton, following his second consecutive poor getaway, sustained damage to the front wing and floor of his Mercedes, but turned in a commendable recovery drive to finish third behind Rosberg and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
"It was damage limitation," said Hamilton. "Congratulations to Nico, an easy race for him I assume, but I am glad it was not more points lost as obviously I could not have finished the race."
Bottas was handed a drive-through penalty after the stewards deemed the fast-starting Finn to be at fault for slamming into Hamilton. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff subsequently claimed the damage cost Hamilton one second a lap.
After an entertaining Australian Grand Prix, described by triple world champion Niki Lauda as the best in recent years, the start to Sunday's race in the desert was even more dramatic.
Indeed Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the man deemed to be the greatest challenger to Mercedes' dominance, was out before the grand prix had even begun.
Plumes of smoke emanated from the back of his Ferrari, and the German was forced to park his car. Jolyon Palmer was another casualty on the parade lap after he headed to his Renault garage with a technical failure.
Rosberg soon scampered into the distance, but Hamilton, with sparks flying off the undertray of his damaged Mercedes, began to carve his way through the field.
While Hamilton was charging through the pack, Jenson Button's day came to a premature end when he retired with mechanical gremlins. Fernando Alonso, sidelined for this race with a rib injury, winced at the back of the McLaren garage at his team-mate's demise.
Back on track and the opening round of pit stops saw Mercedes split their strategy with Rosberg taking on a set of the grippier, soft tyres, while Hamilton opted for the more durable medium compound.
For a moment it appeared to be playing into the Briton's hands as he managed to keep pace with both Rosberg and Raikkonen. But he soon began to slow and he was faced with no option than to stop for a fresh set of rubber earlier than his team-mate and the Ferrari in second place.
From there his charge stopped as he failed to place Raikkonen under any pressure, and in the end, it was a regulation victory for Rosberg, the 16th of his career.
Results after Race (57 Laps): 1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1hr 33mins 34.696secs, 2 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin)Ferrari 1:33:44.978, 3 Lewis Hamilton(Gbr)Mercedes GP 1:34:04.844, 4 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull 1:34:37.190, 5 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Haas F1 1:34:52.995, 6 Max Verstappen(Ned)Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:34:55.625, 7 Daniil Kvyat(Rus)Red Bull at 1 Lap, 8 Felipe Massa(Bra)Williams at 1 Lap, 9 Valtteri Bottas(Fin)Williams at 1 Lap, 10 Stoffel Vandoorne(Bel)McLaren at 1 Lap, 11 Kevin Magnussen(Den)Renault at 1 Lap, 12 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 13 Pascal Wehrlein(Ger)Manor Racing at 1 Lap, 14 Felipe Nasr(Bra)Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 15 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger)Force India at 1 Lap, 16 Sergio Perez(Mex)Force India at 1 Lap, 17 Rio Haryanto(Ina)Manor Racing at 1 Lap
Drivers: 1 Nico Rosberg(Ger) Mercedes GP 50pts, 2 Lewis Hamilton(Gbr)Mercedes GP 33, 3 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull 24