Nico Rosberg cut a path through an action-packed Chinese Grand Prix to take his third victory from the first three races of the 2016 season.

Rosberg qualified on pole but Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo got a better start from second, overhauling the Mercedes into the first corner. But the Australian’s lead would only last two laps until he picked up a puncture.¬†With the way ahead clear, Rosberg drove off into the distance to take victory by more than half a minute.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished second, despite a first corner clash with Daniil Kvyat and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Kvyat dove up the inside in his Red Bull which forced Vettel to jink out of the way and into the path of the sister Ferrari.

No real damage was done, though, and all three cars made the finish, Kvyat taking the final podium step – only the second top three finish of the Russian’s F1 career. The first corner incident was discussed before the podium ceremony, Kvyat knowingly prodding Vettel by asking: “What happened at the start?”

An exasperated Vettel replied: “You, asking what happened at the start? If I don’t go left, you crash into us and we all three go out. You are like a torpedo.”

Clearly enjoying himself, Kvyat retorted: “That’s racing. We didn’t crash.”

Vettel wasn’t amused: “You didn’t. You were lucky this time.”

Kvyat got the last word: “I’m on the podium, you’re on the podium.”

Ricciardo recovered from his puncture – which dropped him down to 17th – to finish fourth, while Kimi Raikkonen ended the day fifth, executing a number of overtakes in the final stint to secure the position.

Williams-mounted Felipe Massa came out on top in a scrap over sixth with Lewis Hamilton. The reigning champion endured the worst weekend of his season so far, qualifying last after an issue with his Mercedes’ powertrain. He then got caught up in the concertina after the Kvyat/Vettel/Raikkonen incident and had to stop for a new nosecone, the first of five visits to the pits.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen was on a mission after being shuffled down the order during the first round of stops, precipitated by a safety car period to clear up the mess made by the pushing and shoving of the opening laps. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.

Both McLaren’s finished for the first time this season, albeit outside the points in 12th (Fernando Alonso) and 13th (Jenson Button).

It is perhaps still too early to call the championship in Rosberg’s favour – after all, we are only three races into a 21-race season. But he does now hold an advantage of 36 points over second-placed Hamilton and that’s a big gap this early on. Ricciardo and Vettel are within striking distance, too.

It’s also worth noting that the nine other drivers who started their season with a hat-trick went on to win the championship.

The next race is the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi on 1 May.

Chinese Grand Prix results after 56 laps

  1. Nico Rosberg — Mercedes — 1:38:53.891
  2. Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — +37.776
  3. Daniil Kvyat — Red Bull-TAG Heuer — +45.936
  4. Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull-Tag Heuer — +52.688
  5. Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — +1:05.872
  6. Felipe Massa — Williams-Mercedes — +1:15.511
  7. Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — +1:18.230
  8. Max Verstappen — Toro Rosso-Ferrari — +1:19.268
  9. Carlos Sainz Jr. — Toro Rosso-Ferrari — +1:24.127
  10. Valtteri Bottas — Williams-Mercedes — +1:26.192
  11. Sergio Perez — Force India-Mercedes — +1:34.283
  12. Fernando Alonso — McLaren-Honda — +1:37.253
  13. Jenson Button — McLaren-Honda — 1:41.990
  14. Esteban Gutierrez — Haas-Ferrari — +1 lap
  15. Nico Hulkenberg — Force India-Mercedes — +1 lap
  16. Marcus Ericsson — Sauber-Ferrari — +1 lap
  17. Kevin Magnussen — Renault — +1 lap
  18. Pascal Wehrlein — MRT-Mercedes — +1 lap
  19. Romain Grosjean — Renault — +1 lap
  20. Felipe Nasr — Sauber-Ferrari — +1 lap
  21. Rio Haryanto — MRT-Mercedes — +1 lap
  22. Jolyon Palmer — Renault — +1 lap

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By Only Motors