Rosberg joy after Hamilton suffers crash
Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30
Lewis Hamilton strode into the Sakhir circuit in the style of a Bahraini prince but could only hobble round the track like a deposed emir in his battered Mercedes after another inelegant start.
As immaculate as he was in the traditional Arab robe, Hamilton's car was grubby and damaged by the end of a frustrating race under the lights. After a spluttering getaway, which brought him into the clutches of an over-eager Valtteri Bottas, rescuing a podium place was the best the world champion could do.
Nico Rosberg did not make the same mistake, roaring off the line to set up a trouble-free victory, comfortably clear of Kimi Raikkonen. Rosberg's fifth win in a row opens up a handy 17-point lead, even at this early stage of a marathon 21-race season.
Hamilton adorns himself in countless different attires - some more questionable than others - but the fashion so far this season has been for suspect starts. In Melbourne two weeks ago, he fell into the pack, rendering his chances of victory impossible.
Here was possibly even worse, thanks to Bottas's error of judgement. He careered into the side of Hamilton and was deservedly punished with a drive-through penalty. But the point remains that if you fly off the line, no blundering Finns have the opportunity to ruin your race.
The three-time champion shouldered the blame rather than shift it on to the team.
It seems the new system of using a single-paddle clutch operated by his left hand, rather than the two that the drivers released last year, is not to Hamilton's liking.
At least Formula One has managed to get one rule change right. "Two separate incidents, both equally painful - perhaps today more painful," Hamilton, who had started from pole position, said.
"Again, damage limitation. Congratulations to Nico. I had so much damage to the car, I couldn't fight with Kimi."
There was still time for a little dig at his team-mate, not to mention his typically excessive fawning over the locals (he was not alone in that).
"An easy race for him [Rosberg], I assume," he said on the podium. The 31-year-old will not be too concerned just yet; the fundamentals of speed remain in his favour.
But this blip will become a wobble if he fluffs the start again in China two weeks from now.
While Hamilton's race was a fraught affair, clawing himself back through the field having fallen to ninth, Rosberg's was the epitome of calm.
Raikkonen, too, had a dreadful start, allowing the German a clear run. The Finn, monosyllabic as ever on the podium afterwards, never got within five seconds or so. True, Rosberg was never challenged, strolling ahead into the distance, but the German did not put a foot wrong. He did all he had to do, no more, no less.
Although his 16th victory does bring up one unwelcome statistic - he is now tied with Stirling Moss as the most successful driver never to win the world championship - things are falling his way so far in 2016.