Ferrari managed to close the qualifying gap on Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel starting on the outside of Row 1 next to Lewis Hamilton, who claimed his fourth-straight pole to start the 2015 season. Row 2 was another Mercedes-Ferrari (Nico Rosberg-Kimi Raikkonen) split, with Williams locking down Row 3 (Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa). Massa, however, couldn’t fire his car initially and started from pitlane.
Raikkonen and Vettel both made it past Rosberg at the start. Hamilton built a 1.5-sec lead in the first two laps of the race. Rosberg took third from Raikkonen during Lap 4 (of 57), but was then advised to take care of his brakes before attempting a run at Vettel. Mercedes told Hamilton, meanwhile, that he could afford to go two-tenths of a second faster.
Vettel wobbled during Lap 8, allowing Rosberg to close behind him. Rosberg passed his countryman for second one lap later. Hamilton led Rosberg by 4.5 sec. Raikkonen advised the Ferrari pit box that he felt his car was faster than Vettel’s and would eventually try to overtake him.
Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, had his McLaren-Honda running P9 with an eye on scoring the team’s first points of the season. Teammate Jenson Button did not start the race, his car suffering from energy recovery system problems.
Vettel pitted during Lap 14. Rosberg came in one lap later. Both teams put on a second set of soft option tires in an effort to maximize immediate speed. Vettel beat Rosberg to pit exit. Hamilton came in on Lap 16, also taking softs. Hamilton came out of the pits before both Vettel and his teammate. The two cars on track braked heavily to avoid the Brit, Rosberg squeezing past Vettel in the process.
Rosberg set the fastest lap of the race and started to pull away from Vettel. Raikkonen pitted on Lap 18, taking mediums. Mercedes reported Rosberg was suffering from brake problems. Hamilton led Rosberg by 1.5 sec running Lap 20.
The gaps between Hamilton-Rosberg-Vettel both were 2.1 sec during Lap 26. Raikkonen, meanwhile, closed to within 6.5 sec of Vettel, from 10 sec after his pit stop. The second round of pit stops began on Lap 33, with Vettel pitting first and Hamilton coming in one lap later. Rosberg came in during Lap 35, exiting pit row behind Vettel again. All three switched to the medium compound, per sporting regulations, with Raikkonen remaining on track.
Vettel ran wide on the final corner of the lap, Rosberg again passing him on track and retaking P2. Vettel damaged his front ring and had to make an additional pit stop to replace it. Raikkonen pitted during Lap 41, switching back to the soft options and exiting in P3. During Lap 45 Raikkonen was running 2 sec/lap faster than Rosberg, with Mercedes advising their driver that he could be a threat by the end of the race. Raikkonen was 9 sec behind with 11 laps left.
Lap 49 had Hamilton 4.7 sec ahead of Rosberg and 11.6 up on Raikkonen. Raikkonen ran 4.8 sec behind Rosberg during Lap 51, and 3.7 sec in Lap 52. The gap narrowed to 1.7 sec in Lap 54. Rosberg ran wide into Turn 1 of Lap 56, still suffering from brake problems, and Raikkonen made the pass.
Hamilton held on to win by 2.3 sec over Raikkonen, with Rosberg third. It was Raikkonen’s first podium finish since returning to Ferrari last season. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) finished ninth after qualifying P17, with Massa securing the final point despite his pit-row start. Vettel’s unscheduled stop allowed Rosberg to move into second in the driver standings.
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain), Mercedes – 93
Nico Rosberg (Germany), Mercedes –66
Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Ferrari - 65
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland), Ferrari – 42
Felipe Massa (Brazil), Williams-Mercedes – 31
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Williams-Mercedes – 30
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull-Renault – 19
Felipe Nasr (Brazil), Sauber-Ferrari – 14
Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus-Mercedes – 12
Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), Force India-Mercedes – 6
Max Verstappen (Netherlands), STR-Renault – 6
Carlos Sainz (Spain), STR-Renault – 6
Mercedes (Rosberg, Hamilton) – 159
Ferrari (Vettel, Raikkonen) – 107
Williams-Mercedes (Massa, Bottas) – 61
Red Bull Racing-Renault (Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat) – 23
Sauber-Ferrari (Nasr, Marcus Ericsson) – 19
Lotus-Mercedes (Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado) - 12
Toro Rosso-Renault (Sainz, Verstappen) - 12
Force India-Mercedes (Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez) – 11
Next event: Pirelli Grand Prix of Spain – May 8-10, 2015