Strategic run on Saturday
For Rosberg, the weekend fell in place just after the first part of qualifying on April 16, when team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a component failure in his power unit and had to start the race from the back. Most importantly, Rosberg was the only driver to use the ‘softs’ in the second part of qualifying to set his best time and progress to Q3, while the rest used the faster ‘supersofts’ to qualify for the top-10 shootout.
This meant the German would start the race on ‘soft’ tyres that were more durable and could run longer before his first pit stop when compared to the less durable ‘supersofts’ the other drivers had to run on.
Rosberg returned average time during his first run in the final part of qualifying, with Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari on top after the first few minutes. The Mercedes driver, however, managed to deliver a blinding lap when it mattered during his second run to secure his first pole of the season, as the Ferrari drivers made mistakes on their final runs and had to settle for the second row of the grid.
Ferrari faux pas
It doesn’t make for a good spectacle when team-mates take out each other, especially when the big boss is in attendance. The Ferrari Chairman, Sergio Marchionne, watched in disbelief, as Sebastian Vettel collided with Raikkonen on the first lap. The Finn had to limp back to the pits with a damaged front wing and a puncture. Vettel too damaged his front wing and dropped to eighth following the mess.
Though the safety car, deployed to clear the debris, helped Vettel to pit for a new front wing and get his race back on track, the damage had already been done. The four-time world champion had to settle for second, finishing a whopping 37 seconds behind Rosberg.
For Raikkonen, it was a case of limiting the damage — he fought his way back to fifth, but would rue the mistake he made in the final part of his qualifying lap, which otherwise could have put him on the front row, and maybe even on pole.
Vettel later apologised to Raikkonen and then blamed Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat for causing the collision. But it was yet another chance that Ferrari had blown.
Rivals tripping over
Looking at the events that unfolded in the first few minutes of the race it was as if everyone was trying their best to help Rosberg win. While the German lost out at the start when Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took the lead, he immediately regained the initiative after Ricciardo ran over the debris from the first lap collision. The Aussie suffered a puncture and surrendered the lead by the third lap.
Further behind, it was a miserable weekend for Hamilton as he was hit by Sauber’s Felipe Nasr. The defending champion damaged his front wing in the incident. While Hamilton recovered quickly and was in contention for the fourth place, his car had suffered significant damages that affected its performance. He finally had to settle for seventh.
After four years of success, Red Bull was on the back-foot for the past two years thanks to its underpowered Renault power unit. The team was expected to struggle in the opening half of the current season too. However, after three races, Red Bull seems to have maximised its potential with its chassis that is purported to be as good as Mercedes’.
Kvyat scored his second career podium after starting sixth, thanks to a very good opening lap when he gained three places, while Ricciardo recorded his third fourth-place finish this season.
Ricciardo perhaps could have finished even higher had it not been for the puncture that set him back. He is third in the standings, ahead of the two Ferrari drivers.