Rosberg takes easy victory at Azerbaijan

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Europe, Baku Street Circuitaz

Nico Rosberg has won the inaugural Grand Prix at Baku, leading the race from start to finish. Sebastian Vettel finished a distant second, and he too was unthreatened in that position. Perhaps the happiest man on the podium was Sergio Perez, who followed up on his podium finish at Monaco some weeks earlier.

The race got off the a fairly normal start, with Rosberg retaining his lead, ahead of Ricciardo, Vettel and Raikkonen. Lewis Hamilton from tenth also didn't manage to make much progress, all mostly due to the short run to turn 1.

As early as lap 6, Verstappen was the first to pit, along with Alonso, Sainz and Kvyat. They all changed to a new set of softs.

At approximately the same time, Vettel made it past Ricciardo to take second place, followed by Ricciardo making his pitstop, one lap after his team mate Verstappen did.

By lap 10, all but the 5 first cars, and Palmer had pitted. Rosberg led the race by 13 seconds, followed by Vettel who also had 10 seconds in hand over Perez, Hamilton and Bottas. Palmer, who started from pits, ran in 13th position, on the new set of super softs he started the race with.

As Rosberg continued to serialise fastest laps, Lewis Hamilton pitted on lap 15 after complaining of a vibration due to a flat spotted right front. He too changed to soft, rejoining in 7th position. Kimi Raikkonen was meanwhile handed a 5-second time penalty for crossing the pit entry line one lap earlier.

By lap 22, it became obvious that Red Bull are not very much at ease at this track, suffering from higher degradation and lacking some top speed. Testimony of the difficult situation is Ricciardo getting past by Perez and Hamilton at the same time, while braking for turn 1.

Toro Rosso was somewhat in a similar situation, with Carlos Sainz in 8th backing up a large number of cars behind him. First was Alonso in 9th, followed by Button, Hulkenberg, Massa. Ricciardo joined that party after he made a second pitstop and changed to used medium compound tyres.

At the front, Vettel caught up with Raikkonen and was given an easy pass, moving him up again into second position, 17s down on race leader Rosberg. Behind Raikkonen, Perez followed at 4 seconds, with Hamilton another 6 seconds further down the road in 5th. Bottas was 6th, ahead of Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Massa and Verstappen.

While at the front, positions appeared to be settled rapidly, Alonso and Button were battling it out for several laps past the halfway mark of the race, with Button eventually taking the upper hand. Alonso soon got passed by Nasr and Grosjean as well, before his engineer told him to box the car as "we can see the problem getting worse". He retired on lap 44, a few laps after Wehrlein parked his car after reporting his brakes were completely gone.

Towards the closing stages, Perez put up a challenge against Raikkonen, but was rightly told he didn't need to overtake the Finn, thanks to his earlier time penalty. Raikkonen and Hamilton on the other hand had some discussions with their race engineers, but both got told no information could be given (due to regulations that restrict radio transmissions).

At the start of the final lap, Perez still made it past Raikkonen with relative ease.

20 seconds later, Nico Rosberg took an easy victory, comfortably ahead of Vettel.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
16Nico RosbergMercedes AMG511:32:52.36625
25Sebastian VettelFerrari51+16.696s18
311Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes51+25.241s15
47Kimi RäikkönenFerrari51+33.102s12
544Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG51+56.335s10
677Valtteri BottasWilliams Mercedes51+60.886s8
73Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer51+69.229s6
833Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer51+70.696s4
927Nico HulkenbergForce India Mercedes51+77.708s2
1019Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes51+85.375s1
1122Jenson ButtonMcLaren Honda51+104.817s0
1212Felipe NasrSauber Ferrari50+1 lap0
138Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari50+1 lap0
1420Kevin MagnussenRenault50+1 lap0
1530Jolyon PalmerRenault50+1 lap0
1621Esteban GutierrezHaas Ferrari50+1 lap0
179Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari50+1 lap0
1888Rio HaryantoMRT Mercedes49+2 laps0
NC14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda42DNF0
NC94Pascal WehrleinMRT Mercedes39DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzToro Rosso Ferrari31DNF0
NC26Daniil KvyatToro Rosso Ferrari6DNF0

* Note - Perez, Sainz and Magnussen had five-place grid penalties for unscheduled gearbox changes. Magnussen started from pit lane after suspension set-up changes in parc ferme after qualifying. Raikkonen had 5s added to his race time for crossing the pit entry line.