Nico Rosberg extends lead over Lewis Hamilton after winning Chinese Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton with a thumping victory in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who started from last after his engine expired in qualifying, stopped five times in a race brimming with drama, and eventually crossed the line in seventh place.
It means that Rosberg, who has become only the fourth driver in the sport's history to win six races in succession - a streak which stretches back to last year - now holds a 36-point lead over Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel, involved in a first-corner collision with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen finished second following an exemplary recovery drive with Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat claiming the final spot on the podium.
Earlier this week, Hamilton predicted that Rosberg would be guaranteed an "easy" weekend after he was dealt a five-placed grid penalty following a gearbox change. But even Hamilton, nor Rosberg for that matter, would have envisaged just how straightforward it would prove to be.
After Vettel and Raikkonen collided with each other at the opening corner - both having to take on replacement front wings - and then Daniel Ricciardo, who had beaten Rosberg off the line, suffered a tyre blow-out on the following lap, Rosberg's main opposition had been wiped out in the opening minutes of the race.
At the back of the field, Felipe Nasr attempted to avoid Raikkonen and Vettel, but instead bumped into Hamilton causing the latter to lose his front wing. The world champion was forced into the pit lane, and emerged last but one in the order.
A safety car was deployed to clear the debris following Ricciardo's tyre blow-out, at which point Mercedes opted to call Hamilton in once more. With the safety car on track, their theory was for Hamilton to do just one lap on the supersoft tyre compound - the fastest but least durable of the three compounds available - before pitting again for the soft tyre option.
Hamilton had stopped three times in the opening six laps, but with the safety car still on track, he was right on the back of the pack when the race got under way again on lap nine.
From there, the Briton, who suffered damage to the floor of his Mercedes in his first-corner prang, was on a recovery drive, joined by Raikkonen in 19th and Vettel 15th.
The championship protagonists sets about carving their way through the field, and by the next round of pit-stops, the trio had made light work of much of the opposition with Vettel and Hamilton in particular holding nothing back to provide great entertainment.
Hamilton was third at the time of his fourth stop on lap 21 and he emerged midway through the order, but that was where his charge - with the damage to his car now taking more of an effect on his performance - stopped.
"Lewis, give it everything you've got, mate", was the call from Hamilton's team, but his response was telling. "I am," he replied, and by lap 30 he was back in the pits for a fifth and final time.
Hamilton then negotiated the slower cars with ease, but Felipe Massa was proving an altogether different animal in the Williams, allowing both Ricciardo and Raikkonen to pass the limping Briton. Hamilton could manage no better than seventh in what will be a weekend to forget for the world champion.
There were no such concerns for Vettel - who despite being only 15th in the opening phase of the race - stormed all the way back through the pack to finish nearly 40 seconds behind a cruising Rosberg with Kvyat in third.
Ricciardo also starred en route to finishing fourth following his early tyre blow-out, with Raikkonen and Massa crossing the line in fifth and sixth. Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas completed the points. The McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were 12th and 13th. Britain's Jolyon Palmer was the last of the classified 22 runners, with all cars, despite the drama, making it to the end of the race.
Rosberg said: "The start was not quite good enough, but then I had a really quick car today so I was feeling great. I attacked Daniel straightaway and then I managed to pull a good gap after that."
Reflecting on the drama behind, the German added: "I didn't see anything - I had no idea - I just know the gap, and I just knew I had to extend it as much as possible."
Second-placed Vettel said: "It was a very entertaining race, a lot of cars that I had to overtake - it was good fun. The car was great this afternoon so a big thanks to the team for that."