After seeing his Championship lead being scythed down by Lewis Hamilton over the past two races, Nico Rosberg bounced back in emphatic fashion to take the honour of being the first ever winner around the streets of Baku.
Controlling from lights to flag, taking pole, setting the fastest lap and leading every lap, Rosberg looked mighty around the pleasant Eurasian backdrop under a dusky sky. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took second and Sergio Perez scored his and Force India’s second podium in three races after a flawless drive.
Meanwhile, Rosberg’s team mate Hamilton struggled all weekend, starting in tenth after his Qualifying mishap – ending the race in fifth with engine based problems.
On the contrary to the GP2 support race earlier in the weekend, the start was less than dramatic, with every one of the 22 drivers negotiating Turn 1 with no problems. Rosberg scampered away, building up a ten second gap before the first round of stops. However, both the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen came in early for a set of soft compound tyres. Then, in a change of heart somewhat, both Ricciardo and Verstappen were called in for the hardest compound available for the race; the white walled mediums.
Kimi Raikkonen’s weekend took a turn for the worst, when he incurred the wrath of the stewards for crossing the white line at pit entry, whilst trying to stay in the tow of Ricciardo. His penalty was five seconds added on to his eventual race time. This led to the Finn being ordered to wave Vettel through to second position
Rosberg was the last of the frontrunners to receive fresh rubber on lap 22, keeping a comfortable gap back to Vettel, which he held competently.
Further back, Hamilton had started to carve his way back through the top 10, running in fifth before suffering with engine troubles, the engine mode he was in was faulty. He sought help from race engineer Pete Bonnington, but to his vocal dismay, was refused help due to the radio information cutbacks in force from last year. It left him in no-mans land, between the flying Perez and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.
Perez continued to hound Raikkonen, eager to stay within five seconds due to the Finn’s hinderance. Although, the Mexican seized his chance, claiming third place on track at the start of the last lap.
Further down the field, McLaren endured another tumultuous weekend, Jenson Button languishing in seventeenth at the start before ending up just outside the points in eleventh. His team mate Fernando Alonso’s race came to a bland end on lap 44 with gear selection problems, the Spaniard stuck in 4th gear.
At the race’s conclusion, Rosberg stretched his previously shrinking Championship lead by a further 15 points. In two weeks time, it’s off to the home of the Red Bull Ring, Austria; where Rosberg looks to claim his third victory there in as many years and regain his early season momentum to hold off the three times World Champion.
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