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The Chinese weekend opened with what looked like tyre failures for both Williams and Renault. However, Pirelli denied responsibility and Williams later discovered they were suffering wheel rim problems. These were identified and fixed before FP3. Magnussen's problem was diagnosed as a suspension problem, which was also repaired.
Further up the order, Lewis Hamilton took a 5 place grid penalty for a premature gearbox change, adding to his somewhat mediocre opening to his 2016 campaign.
Jolyon Palmer pulled into the pits halfway through FP3 with a puncture on the opposite rear corner to Magnussen's Friday problem, with no obvious mistakes that would have caused it. Perhaps the suspension was more flawed than the team thought. As it turned out, however, it was a bit of bodywork that was catching the tyre.
Vettel complained of being stuck in 1st gear a couple of times.
Hydraulics put another car in the firing line, with Ericsson unable to pull out of the pits while the mechanics fought to get it running. It was a race against time to get the Sauber ready for qualifying. He did manage a banker lap in FP3 in the end.
Pascal Wehrlein was the first driver eliminated in Q1 – despite the retraction of the phased elimination system – after he lost traction on a wet patch and smashed the wall, bringing the red flag out. This red flag also saved Mercedes' blushes somewhat – Hamilton had just complained of a power loss.
Hamilton's engine woes continued and eventually he didn't set a time, the team keeping him in the car almost until the flag as they wrestled with the car. In the end it was a problem with the recovery systems, leaving the world champion 160 horsepower down. He had one brief shot with about 4 minutes to go, but immediately parked the car and in the process compromised Verstappen's line through the last corner.
Strangely, there was a service vehicle parked in the firing line at the pit entrance, reported by Button as a crash risk, especially with the marshals standing around it and chatting away as if they were completely safe.
Grosjean was struggling in Q1 with the high tyre pressures mandated by Pirelli, while his teammate fell in 18th between the 2 Renaults. Haryanto took 20th place, last of the timed cars, while Wehrlein was promoted to 21st ahead of the penalised Hamilton.
Rosberg elected to stick with soft tyres in Q2 rather than super-softs, trying to pull a strategic advantage over Ferrari in the race. Both Ferrari cars did indeed use the red-walled tyres, Vettel less than a tenth up and Raikkonen just over a tenth up on the championship leader.
Bottas went 5th on his only Q2 run, before red flags came out again when Hulkenberg lost his tyre. Massa fell 11th ahead of McLaren, Grosjean and the Sauber pair.
Hulkenberg may have made it into Q3 on the clock, but with the car stranded on track he was barred from the session so qualified 10th. A post-session investigation would take place too.
Rosberg was on the back foot against Ferrari in Q3, but his second lap put him on provisional pole. Bottas was sat 3rd with Ricciardo demoting him when taking 2nd. Perez went 5th, losing out to Kvyat immediately. Verstappen stayed 8th, becoming 9th when Vettel took 4th. Raikkonen stayed 3rd, and Sainz kept 8th. Bottas was demoted to 5th in the end. For Sunday, with Mercedes book-ending the field, Ferrari beaten by Ricciardo and a disappointing weekend for Haas on the cards, the race would be very intersting.
Nico Hulkenberg received a 3 place grid penalty for Force India's unsafe release, promoting Massa to 10th and the McLaren pair to a row 6 lockout.
Rosberg lost the lead to Ricciardo, but Vettel tapped Raikkonen as Kvyat made his own gains and damaged both scarlet noses. Hamilton also took damage after contact with Nasr, his front wing stuck under the upper section of the Mercedes' nose. He and Raikkonen pitted on the first lap, along with Grosjean.
Rosberg overtook Ricciardo once DRS was enabled, only for the Australian's tyre to totally tear itself apart, presumably on some of the debris on the back straight. Kvyat was now 2nd ahead of the Force India pair. Sainz then led Vettel, Button, Bottas, Massa and Verstappen.
The safety car was deployed on lap 4 causing a traffic jam in the pits. Toro Rosso stacked their cars, while Vettel took a new nose.
Hamilton pitted again under the safety car, the team trying to understand his complaint that the front end now seemed much lighter, and to attach a set of super-soft tyres. Another stop a lap later gave him the soft compound back again, leaving him with only softs required for the rest of the race.
Lap 9 saw the race resume properly, with a far cleaner first corner than before. Rosberg led Massa, Alonso, Wehrlein, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Palmer, Perez, Bottas and Button. Perez and Kvyat were the first to progress.
Vettel's second front wing shed an endplate following contact with Bottas on lap 14 as Raikkonen pitted for medium tyres.
Hulkenberg was put under investigation for the second time in the weekend for going too slowly in the pits, while his teammate had a post-race investigation into an unsafe release. Hulkenberg received a 5 second penalty.
At the halfway mark, Hamilton was just at the tail end of the points.
Having blamed Kvyat for his first lap collision with the sister Ferrari, Vettel was slowly reeling in the lead Red Bull for 2nd. Both pitted on lap 35. Raikkonen was between them as they rejoined, but moved over for the German.
Rosberg took medium tyres for his last 20 laps, with a comfortable lead over what was now the second-placed Ricciardo, Vettel now 3rd ahead of Kvyat. Ricciardo and Raikkonen both pitted shortly afterwards, however.
A quietly woeful day was unfolding for Renault, Palmer a lap down in last with Magnussen not far up the road.
Hamilton took 5th from Bottas, now looking at Massa for 4th as Ricciardo latched onto the back of the trio. Bottas couldn't hold the Red Bull off for a full lap. The Australian had the pace over the Mercedes and took 5th for Red Bull. Only 9 corners later, Massa too was dispatched. Further back, Raikkonen wanted 7th from Bottas. The Ferrari showed its dominance with little difficulty.
Grosjean pitted about 10 laps from home in what seemed certain now to be Haas' first race without a point. Gutierrez nonetheless nailed the fastest lap.
Raikkonen muscled his way into 6th and forced Hamilton to take evasive action. One lap later it was Massa's turn to concede.
Toro Rosso quietly stole 10th back, Sainz jumping Perez as Verstappen consolidated 9th and aimed for 8th.
Gutierrez managed to take 14th, the Sauber defenceless. The sister Haas was “undriveable” according to Grosjean.
Rosberg won from Vettel and Kvyat. Ricciardo then led Raikkonen, Massa, Hamilton, Verstappen, Sainz and Bottas. Perez followed them, leading the McLarens, Gutierrez, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Magnussen, Wehrlein, Grosjean, Nasr, Haryanto and Palmer.