It was Rosberg’s fourth win of the season and his seventh in succession, and gives him a 43-point lead in the driver standings. Hamilton, meanwhile, believed he had the pace to win, but yet again saw his challenge compromised as falling water pressure obliged him to back off after he had reduced a 12.9s deficit to 7.5s between laps 23 and 36.
Where the world champion at least finished second this time, however, it was another pure disaster for 2016’s other unlucky man, Sebastian Vettel. He was hit from behind by Chinese nemesis Daniil Kvyat in Turn 2 on the opening lap as he pushed the Ferrari inside Daniel Ricciardo’s sister Red Bull.
Then as Vettel appeared to slow slightly with a resulting rear puncture he was again hit from behind by Kvyat and sent spinning hard into the wall in Turn 3. The Russian was given a 10s stop-go penalty and three penalty points, but Vettel was done.
Ferrari’s scant consolation came with Raikkonen’s subdued third - Ferrari’s 700th podium - in a race at which the Scuderia had expected to match Mercedes.
Valtteri Bottas was strong initially despite losing second place on the opening lap to Raikkonen; the Williams driver got that back after a safety car intervention because of Vettel’s accident and a resultant Turn 2 clash further back between Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez, the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and Rio Haryanto’s Manor, as racing resumed on the fourth lap.
But soon both Hamilton, who had jumped Massa at the restart, then Raikkonen, deposed the white car, leaving Williams to take fourth and fifth with Bottas leading team mate Felipe Massa home.
Max Verstappen looked set for a strong sixth for Toro Rosso until his Ferrari engine broke on the 34th lap, handing the position to Fernando Alonso who had made a blinding start for McLaren. The Spaniard pushed home to his first points of the season, and it was a double score for the Woking team as Jenson Button likewise opened his 2016 account with 10th place after a big fight with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, who incurred a 10s time penalty and two penalty points for forcing Renault’s Jolyon Palmer off track earlier in the race.
Between the two McLarens, Kevin Magnussen also made use of a great start to finish seventh and score Renault’s first 2016 points after a great drive, as Romain Grosjean put Haas back in the points after fighting off the recovering Sergio Perez. The Force India driver, after picking up a rear puncture from Ricciardo’s front wing on lap one, had cannily switched from supersoft to soft tyres under the safety car, but had to stop for fresh rubber later on when running sixth.
On a day of disaster for Red Bull, Ricciardo salvaged 12th ahead of Palmer, the feisty Ericsson, a chastened Kvyat, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr (who got a 5s time penalty for failing to rejoin the track correctly at Turn 2), Gutierrez (handed a drive-through penalty for causing his collision with Hulkenberg at the start) and Pascal Wehrlein, whose Manor was delayed by a long late stop for supersoft tyres after the German had shown plenty of fighting spirit.
Rosberg now has a lead of 43 points over Hamilton and joins Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher and Vettel as the only men ever to win seven Grands Prix in a row. As Raikkonen rises to third with 36 points, Vettel himself lies fourth on 33, one ahead of Massa.