Back in the fast lane: Nico Rosberg cruises to victory at European Grand Prix
The Mercedes ace extends his lead at the top of the Formula One drivers’ standings, beating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel into second with Force India’s Sergio Perez third
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg led from start to finish and won Sunday’s European Grand Prix on the Baku street circuit, extending his lead in the Formula One championship from nine points to 24.
Despite expectations of crashes and safety-car periods in the narrow circuit in Azerbaijan, there was little on-track action and the safety car remained in the pits throughout as Rosberg won by 16.6 seconds from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Force India’s Sergio Perez passed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on the penultimate lap and took third.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton made up several places early after starting tenth, but a problem with the Mercedes hybrid power system – and his team’s inability to tell him how to fix it – saw him finish fifth.
“I just wanted to come here and win and I want to enjoy the win,” said Rosberg. “It has been an amazing day and an amazing weekend – it has been spectacular. Everything went to plan for me so it was really awesome. The weekend went perfectly.”
“You created a great track,” Rosberg said to the organisers. “It was really exciting racing. Qualifying went all to plan, it was awesome. No concerns, we went flat out.”
Vettel’s second place keeps him in third place in the standings on 96 points, with defending champion Hamilton on 117 points. Rosberg tops the table with 141 points.
“It’s the first time here and I didn’t know what to expect but it’s been a great track,” said four-time world champion Vettel.
“The circuit is incredible – you need to be well equipped around here. Today was a great job for us, we struggled on Friday but to see where we are now is a great recovery – two second places in a row. The car is coming along. I think people lost a lot of money because they were betting on a safety car – I was expecting a couple too.”
Perez, who crashed in qualifying, passed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen late in the race to grab third spot, taking him to eighth in the standings on 39 points. The Finn is fourth on 81 points.
“I knew yesterday when I put the car into the wall it was a big chance and I was so frustrated with myself but my boys did a fantastic job to put the car together,” said Perez.
“We had a great qualifying, were in P7 [after qualifying second but getting a five-place penalty] and we had to make our way through.
“I was fighting with Kimi all the way to the end, I knew he had a five-second penalty, but it was very nice to get past him. When I saw the opportunity, and there was no risk, I went for it.”
Valtteri Bottas finished sixth for Williams ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull team-mate, Dutch teenager Max Verstappen with Nico Hulkenberg ninth for Force India and Felipe Massa 10th in the second Williams.
It was later revealed that both Mercedes cars had technical problems but team chief Toto Wolff said the German was able to fix the issue faster than the Briton.
“We had a problem with both cars with a configuration with the switches,” he said. “There was a way of changing it on the dashboard which we are not allowed to communicate to the drivers. It took a while for Lewis’ to reset.
“Nico had done a switch change before and he changed it back a couple of laps later and Lewis was trying to work out what it was and it took 12 laps.
“The reason why we have those radio regulations is we want more unpredictability and we don’t want them to be engineer driven.”