BAKU (AZERBAIJAN) • Nico Rosberg won yesterday's European Grand Prix in Baku, his fifth victory of the season, to extend his lead in the Formula One drivers' standings over Lewis Hamilton to 24 points.
It was the German's 19th and arguably easiest victory.
After a very eventful qualifying session on Saturday, and dire warnings of crashes into medieval walls and multiple safety cars, it was a surprisingly straightforward race, especially for Rosberg, who led from start to finish.
Sebastian Vettel was second, 16.6sec behind. The other podium place went to Sergio Perez, which he deserved after posting the second fastest time in qualifying, only to be hit with a five-place penalty.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth and Hamilton finished in fifth place, to score a damage-limiting 10 points.
But his charge through the field from his starting 10th position was delayed when he found himself stuck in the wrong engine mode.
GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE
1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1hr 32min 52.366sec
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +16.696sec
3 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +25.241
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +33.102
5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +56.335
6 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams +1:00.886
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +1:09.229
8 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +1:10.696
9 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India +1:17.708
10 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +1:25.375
1 Rosberg 141pts
2 Hamilton 117
3 Vettel 96
4 Raikkonen 81
5 Ricciardo 78
1 1 Mercedes 258
2 Ferrari 177
3 Red Bull 140
4 Williams 90
5 Force India 59
His Mercedes team were unable to assist him because of the new restrictions placed on radio messages this season.
This made for one of the most entertaining parts of the afternoon, as Hamilton tried in vain to extract information from his team.
"This is ridiculous guys, I don't know. I'm looking at my dash every five seconds trying to find a switch in the wrong position," Hamilton said over the team radio.
Mercedes said to him: "There is nothing you are doing wrong, just a setting that is incorrect."
Hamilton: "In HTB?"
Mercedes: "I'm afraid I can't say."
Hamilton: "I might not finish this race as I'm going to try and change everything."
Mercedes: "We do not advise that, Lewis."
Hamilton: "Can I make suggestions and you say if it's OK or not?"
Mercedes: "No, that's not allowed. Let's just get our heads down and focus on the job."
At another stage Hamilton asked: "Can I suggest things and you tell me if I'm right?"
"Nope. That's not allowed," came the reply.
The Mercedes team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda later said it was a question of engine modes.
"It was a problem they both had and Nico could fix it quicker than Lewis. The (radio) ban is there, so we all have to adapt," he said.
Raikkonen, who had done as he was told and allowed Vettel to pass him, also had a problem with radio messages. At one point there was the following exchange.
Raikkonen: "Is it the handling? Is it the same as the last race?"
Ferrari: "I can't answer, Kimi, I can't answer, I'm sorry."
Raikkonen: "For sure you can say 'yes' or 'no'?"
Ferrari: "I can't Kimi, I can't."
The outbursts were highlights on a day with none of the mayhem predicted after a series of accidents in practice and qualifying.
Nobody crashed, the tight turns around the ancient city walls were safely negotiated by all and the 350kmh blast down the long main straight produced no drama.
"I think people lost a lot of money because they were betting on a safety car. I was expecting a couple too," said Vettel.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS