Lewis Hamilton battles back as Rosberg win Chinese Grand Prix

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Chinese GP: Is Nico Rosberg looking unstoppable?

Nico Rosberg took his third straight win of 2016 as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton fought back to seventh in a hectic Chinese Grand Prix.

World champion Hamilton started from the back, suffered a broken front wing on lap one and did five pit stops.

The Briton faces the prospect of trying to overhaul a 36-point deficit in the remaining 18 races of the season.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel came second despite colliding with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen on the first lap.

The two Ferraris collide at the Chinese Grand Prix
"Sorry boss" - a manic start saw the Ferraris collide with each other as the head of the company watched from the garage

The incident damaged both cars, with Raikkonen fighting back to fifth behind the Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo.

Raikkonen's rise through the field included passing Hamilton in the closing stages, Ferrari's decision to use soft tyres for the final stint as opposed to the mediums chosen by Mercedes giving the Finn an advantage as the Briton fought in vain to try to pass the Williams of Felipe Massa.

Hamilton will express his confidence at being able to erode Rosberg's points lead and will expect his awful luck of the first three races to turnaround - but the fact remains that no driver who has won the first three races of a season has failed to go on to claim the World Championship.

Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna
Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna both claimed the world title having won at least the first three races of the season. The others are Alberto Ascari, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher. Source: Forix

That crazy first lap

The race was shaped by an incident-packed opening, with a number of collisions on the first lap leading to the introduction of the safety car on lap four.

By that stage, Hamilton and Raikkonen had already pitted once to replace front wings damaged in first-corner collisions.

Raikkonen moved right into Vettel's path as the German moved left to ensure he was not tagged by an aggressive dive down the inside by Kvyat.

Hamilton was then turned into by Sauber's Felipe Nasr as he avoided Raikkonen's damaged car swerving back on to the circuit.

sergio marchionne
So, who would like to explain to this man what went on there, then? Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne makes an appearance outside the Ferrari garage

Vettel confronted Kvyat about the incident in the pre-podium room after the race, saying: "If I don't go left, you crash into us and we all three go out - you are like a torpedo."

Kvyat replied: "We didn't crash." Vettel responded: "You didn't. You were lucky this time." Kvyat shrugged: "I'm on the podium; you're on the podium."

In the post-race interviews, Kvyat added: "You see the gap, you go for it on the inside. You see one car it is hard to see both. It was a risky move, I agree with Seb but you have to take risks and I am on the podium."

Listen to Vettel's post-race rant

Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel
"That's for shouting at Kvyat" - Vettel interrogated the Russian after the race over the first-lap collision

Ricciardo's fizzing start turns flat

At the front, Ricciardo had made a stunning start to take the lead from pole-sitter Rosberg at the first corner.

In the process his left-rear wheel had been tagged by Rosberg's front wing. Whether it was that or the debris on the track, Ricciardo suffered a left-rear puncture on lap three, allowing the Mercedes to pass.

Ricciardo would almost certainly not have been able to hold off Rosberg in any case, but his removal from the lead left the German serene out front.

Mercedes decided not to stop him under the safety car and when the race re-started on lap nine, Rosberg simply drove off into the distance.

Listen to the first-lap madness

Just the five pit stops then, Lewis...

lewis hamilton
Any great comeback from Hamilton was scuppered when he was hit by a Sauber and his car's aerodynamics were damaged

Hamilton, meanwhile, was in the wars. Mercedes stopped him twice under the safety car, doing only one lap on the super-soft tyres in an attempt to ensure he could use only the softs for the rest of the race.

So Hamilton had done three stops within the first six laps and he was lying third from last at the restart.

He began his fightback from there, with the Ferraris doing the same - Vettel starting from 11th and Raikkonen not far behind Hamilton, who said his progress had been affected by damage to the car in the incident with Nasr.

"The car was pretty damaged," said the 31-year-old afterwards. "I'm sure it was some aero components but I think it was the suspension as well because it was flexing all over the place."

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said the front wing had damaged the leading edge of the floor and the barge boards when it came off and that the car had lost a "lot of aerodynamic performance".

After a further switch to the medium compound tyres to last the race, Hamilton was not able to recover as much ground as the Ferraris and faces an uphill battle if he is to stop Rosberg winning his first world title this year.

Chinese Grand Prix race results

Chinese Grand Prix coverage details

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton came back to the pits - five times
John Watson in 1983
Comeback king: John Watson won the 1983 Long Beach Grand Prix having started 22nd on the grid
chinese gp
Daniel Ricciardo overtook Nico Rosberg at the first corner, but lost the lead when he suffered a puncture
chinese gp
The safety car was called out as marshals raced to clean a lot of debris off the track
chinese gp
That's three race wins this season and six in a row for German Rosberg - he's starting to look impressive