Having seen his lead slashed to just nine points in the last two races, Nico Rosberg took back the championship advantage with a win at the European Grand Prix.
It was the first race held at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan and it was Rosberg who took pole position before going on to win the race. He was never really challenged at the front and set the fastest lap on the way to his fifth win of the year.
Anticipation was high at the start of the race – as it is at any new circuit – with many expecting at least a safety car. All 22 drivers made it relatively unscathed through the first corner although there was some contact. There were no safety cars throughout the race and the four retirements came as a result of car failures, rather than driver errors.
Behind Rosberg it was Sebastian Vettel who finished second, finishing ahead of Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver had qualified in second but was demoted to seventh following a gearbox change as a result of an accident in free practice. He fought back and pulled off a late move on Kimi Raikkonen to secure his second podium of the season.
Raikkonen had picked up a five second penalty during the race due to crossing the white line on the entrance to the pit-lane. He had been running in third but without a five second gap to Perez in fourth, he would have dropped behind the Force India anyway. Lewis Hamilton finished in fifth having spent a lot of the race on the radio to his engineer complaining about a problem. Due to the radio bans – which restrict engineers from specifically telling their driver what to do – Hamilton was unable to fix the issue, and it eventually resolved itself. It was a day of damage limitation as he had started tenth following a qualifying crash.
Behind Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas was the leading Williams home ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg. Felipe Massa picked up the final point by finishing in tenth.
Jenson Button was just outside the points in eleventh with team-mate – and European Grand Prix ambassador – Fernando Alonso retiring with nine laps remaining. Felipe Nasr finished in twelfth ahead of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who had started from the pit-lane. Jolyon Palmer, Esteban Gutierrez, Marcus Ericsson and Rio Haryanto were the remaining race finishers.
Joining Alonso on the sidelines was Pascal Wehrlein who retired his Manor with brake issues. Both Toro Rossos endured suspension issues and were forced to retire – Daniil Kvyat in the first ten laps and Carlos Sainz after 30.
The result means Rosberg now has a 24 point lead over Hamilton as they head to Austria where Rosberg has won the last two races.