After a morning of mixed weather conditions, the drivers were wheeled to the grid under a dry if overcast track. A likely threat of rain during the race kept the strategists guessing before the start, especially for AMG Mercedes as they tried to optimise their result with Nico Rosberg on pole and team mate Lewis Hamilton well down in 20th, after a gearbox penalty.
From the start it was Nico Rosberg who comfortably made the best getaway, with the action unfolding behind him as Williams driver Felipe Massa and the fast starting McLaren of rookie Kevin Magnussen collided at the first corner. Whilst it appeared to be a racing incident, despite Massa’s protests of it being Magnussen’s fault, the end result was a spectacular flip for an uninjured Massa and a severe derailment to Magnussen and Red Bull man Daniel Ricciardo’s race.
The Safety Car was scrambled for one lap to retrieve Massa’s stricken Williams, before the re-start which saw the other Williams of the quick young Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas try his best to hang onto the Mercedes of Rosberg out front. The advantage of the Mercedes is such that Rosberg was comfortably able to open a gap to the rest, as the attention focused back to the recovery drives of the other Mercedes of Hamilton and Ricciardo.
Both were flying through the field with apparent ease, reaching the fringes of the top 10 by lap 8. A lap later and they receiver further help as Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat hit the Sahara Force-India of Sergio Perez he was battling, with replays showing Kvyat didn’t give Perez enough room when attempting the pass at Turn 8.
Hamilton then made several more places with an audacious double pass on Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen going into Turn 6 after the back straight on lap 13, with a slight nudge on Raikkonen the only contact between the three. The left Hamilton 8th and climbing as others around him started pitting for new soft tyres. The top 2 Rosberg and Bottas pitted on lap 15, re-joining either side of Hamilton.
A long first stint appeared to be paying off for Hamilton as he easily held 3rd, before his tyres started giving up on lap 22, subsequently losing him roughly 1 second a lap before his finally pitted from 3rd on lap 26, re-joining 8th. Back at the front, and Rosberg was serenely building a 13 second advantage over Bottas in 2nd as he appeared to be cruising to a first home victory.
On the other hand, Hamilton was having anything but a serene race as he battled back through the pack for a second time, giving Jenson Button in his McLaren a love tap to the side pod exiting Turn 6 after a misunderstanding. Although he attempted to apologise later on the damage was already done as the front wing damage to the Mercedes was enough to hamper his tyre management for the rest of the afternoon.
As the second pit stop window began from roughly lap 33, the action intensified as reigning champion Sebastien Vettel and former champion Fernando Alonso carried over their epic battle from the British GP two weeks ago. Eventually it was Vettel who was able to use newer tyres to pass the Ferrari of Alonso for 4th some laps later.
Both the Mercedes drivers were now complaining about their tyres, something they rectified as they stopped on lap 41 and 42 respectively. For Rosberg this was simply routine, yet for Hamilton it was anything but. His stop signalled a drastic change of strategy from a two to a three stop race. This left him able to charge down the rest with a short stint on the super soft tyres, before a conservation final run on another set of the super soft tyres.
Lap 50 saw Sauber driver Adrian Sutil suffer a strange spin exiting the final corner, leaving the car unable to re-start precariously and potentially necessitating a late Safety Car. Sensing a potential Safety Car, Mercedes gambled on pitting Hamilton to steal a remarkable 2nd place a lap later. The Safety Car never materialised leaving thing tough for a potential podium now.
Things improved however as Alonso pitted with tyres that were completely shot on lap 55, leaving Hamilton 3rd and chasing down Bottas who was also struggling with his tyres in 2nd. Behind them Ricciardo was also using new tyres to charge up the field, although he soon had Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on his rear wing challenging him for his 5th place.
What ensured was a truly brilliant battle between the two as they constantly changed places over successive laps, until the fun was ended as Alonso finally made it through on lap 62 exiting Turn 9. From her the attention for the final laps turned to Hamilton, who was desperately trying to pass Bottas but to no avail as Bottas held on behind a dominant Rosberg for 2nd , with Hamilton completing the podium in 3rd. Sebastien Vettel came home a quiet 4th from Alonso in 5th and Ricciardo coming home 6th.
Nico Hulkenberg delivered again in 7th, with Jenson Button in 8th from team mate Magnussen who recovered well to come home 9th. Completing the top 10 was Sergio Perez in 10th. From here the F1 circus moves on to Hungary before a well deserved 3 week break for the F1 paddock before the final run in begins at Spa in Belgium.