Sebastian Vettel finished on the podium on his Ferrari debut, with Williams’ sole starter Felipe Massa taking fourth ahead of star rookie Felipe Nasr, who gave Sauber their first points since 2013 on his F1 debut.
With Williams’ Valtteri Bottas already ruled out of the race thanks to a back injury, and Marussia having failed to qualify, the 17 expected starters became 15 before the lights went out, after McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s Daniel Kvyat both experienced car failures en route to the grid.
There would be further casualties on the first lap. Vettel made a slow start, allowing team mate Kimi Raikkonen to pull alongside heading into Turn 1. But as the German clipped the inside kerb he was pushed across the road and inadvertently forced Raikkonen wide over the outer kerb. Delayed, the Finn came under attack from Nasr, who also had Lotus's Pastor Maldonado alongside. The trio pinched together, pitching Maldonado into the barriers. Exit another car.
As Raikkonen fell to eighth, Vettel chased after Massa’s Williams for the first half of the race. The pair’s fight swung on the first round of stops, with Vettel pitting later and emerging ahead. Though Massa would come back at him, Vettel was never truly troubled on his way to the podium.
Massa held on to fourth ahead of compatriot Nasr, who delivered a fantastic performance on his F1 debut. Not only did that make up for all the controversy of the preceding days, it also helped lift Sauber – who also scored through Marcus Ericsson in eighth – into third overall, behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo suffered the indignity of being lapped by the Mercedes right at the end, but at least took eight points for Red Bull after dropping back from challenging Nasr to finish sixth.
Force India might have lacked their 2014 pace, but Nico Hulkenberg held on for one of his trademark smooth runs to seventh, as Sergio Perez survived a collision with Jenson Button and a slow pit stop to take 10th, thus giving the team a handy seven points.
Toro Rosso were also in the points, although misfortune prevented them from scoring as strongly as their pace warranted. Sainz had looked assured in seventh until encountering delays at his first stop, and then had to be satisfied with eighth overall after being unable to resist Ericsson, shod on a set of soft tyres, in the closing stages.
Max Verstappen, meanwhile, ran very well on his F1 debut, belying his age – he became the youngest starter in F1 history – to challenge for the top six all the way until lap 42, when his STR10 started smoking and had to be retired.
Button was the final finisher after a run in which his detuned Honda engine left him prey to all and sundry whatever he did at the wheel. It was a tough afternoon for McLaren, but at least it marked the MP4-30’s first race distance, albeit one that went two laps fewer than the Mercedes.
It was a disastrous race for Lotus, as Romain Grosjean joined Maldonado in retirement on the opening lap with mechanical problems. Raikkonen was also out of luck: a delay with the left rear wheel dropped him back after his first of two planned stops, and then retired after his second stop after a problem at the same corner mean this left rear was not properly attached.
As he foundered, Mercedes looked ominous throughout, and they duly lead both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships as a result.
In the former, Hamilton leads Rosberg with 25 points to 18, with Vettel third on 15 and Massa fourth on 12.
In the constructors’, meanwhile, the Silver Arrows already have an imposing lead: they sit on 43 points, with Ferrari and Sauber next up on 15 and 14 respectively.
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