Daniel Ricciardo’s late overtake on an ailing Nico Rosberg saw Red Bull win their first race of the 2014 season, breaking the Mercedes clean sweep, while also delivering the Renault engine’s their first victory of the season.
The race started in an unusual fashion to Mercedes precedent. Once again, Nico Rosberg struggled off the line, opening the door to Lewis Hamilton. As the Silver Arrows approached the first turn, Hamilton was forced wide allowing Rosberg to pull away and Sebastian Vettel to pounce for second place early on.
Despite a lack of pace, a wild slide from Max Chilton took both himself and Marussia teammate Jules Bianchi out of the race resulting in the first safety car of the race.
The extensive damage to the Marussia cars, in particular Bianchi, saw a safety car last up until the seventh lap. Making up for his poor start, Rosberg’s rapid restart saw him pull away from Vettel and teammate Hamilton.
Hamilton’s frustrations were briefly alleviated as he took Vettel on the 10th lap using DRS to return the race to the 2014 precedent of Mercedes intra-team battling.
By the first round of pitstops on the 13th lap, Rosberg had a 1.9 second gap before pitting five laps later.
With Hamilton now in the lead, Rosberg’s cool was briefly lost, as he overdid the throttle on the 18th lap, regaining control as he ran wide over a kerb.
Hamilton was one of the later pitstops, stopping on the 19th as the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg signalled their intent of long stints on the super soft and harder tyres respectively.
The race began to settle, until Hamilton and Rosberg ran side by side into the early stages of the 26th lap. As Hamilton looked set to close on Rosberg, the German ran across the corner and off the track before rejoining ahead of Hamilton.
As Force India extended their long runs into the 37th minute, the Mercedes dominance looked set to falter as Lewis Hamilton told his team he was suffering from power loss. While no doubt cynics saw this as mind games, Rosberg responded by radioing the same issue.
Two laps previously, Perez had pitted, and while the Mercedes duo slowed on lap 42, Hulkenberg finally pitted onto the super soft tyres.
While Hulkenberg resided in the pits, Williams’ Felipe Massa was hounding down the rear of Lewis Hamilton, considerably closing the gap on every lap.
Massa soon reaped his rewards when Rosberg suffered from a slow pit on the 45th lap, allowing Massa to reach second place with his position strengthened by a one stop strategy.
When Hamilton pitted a lap later, the Brazilian found himself leading the race ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg.
In his rear view mirror, the two Mercedes had déjà vu on the same corner as their previous battle. This time, Hamilton ran off track and was forced to concede his position to his teammate.
Not only did this irk the Brit, but the puncture in the fallout ended his race, causing Hamilton to retire for the second time this season.
It was a boost for Rosberg, now with a sizable points gap on the horizon with his fellow title challenger out. When Massa pitted on the same lap, it saw Rosberg return to the top.
It was not to be plain sailing for Rosberg, with the team having told its two drivers that the power issue could not be resolved, as Perez, Ricciardo and Vettel closed the gap significantly on the first position.
The final ten laps saw a frantic top five. It began on the 64th lap as a clearly faster Massa attempted an overtake on Vettel, who saw off the challenge with a successful defensive manoeuvre, forcing Massa to drop back.
Up ahead, and Ricciardo overtook Perez, using all of the track and a bit of grass to keep the car under control.
It was a signal of decline for Perez, who developed issues that saw Vettel and Massa lurk behind him. As the team radioed Perez that they were looking into it, Ricciardo finally took the slowing Rosberg to take pole position with two laps remaining.
Red Bull were to be further buoyed, as Vettel took the issue-plagued Perez for second with one lap to go of the race.
The final lap saw a huge collision. While the two Red Bulls took Perez with relative ease, Massa attemped an overtake that saw the Williams smash into the rear of Perez, sending both cars flying off the track into the walls.
Both drivers emerged from their cars unhurt as the safety car brought Ricciardo across the line to his first ever Formula One victory ahead of championship leader Rosberg.