Bahrain: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg became the eighth man in Formula One history to win five consecutive races with a victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, and will now aim to do what all the other seven did: Go on to capture the championship title.
Rosberg made it back-to-back wins to start the new season, and five in a row dating to 2015, with a comfortable victory, capitalizing on a first-corner collision involving teammate Lewis Hamilton and an engine failure that prevented Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel from starting the race.
He led throughout to win by 10.2 seconds at the Sakhir circuit over Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton recovering from the collision with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and finishing third.
"It was a really good getaway on the dirty side of the grid and that really made my race in the end," Rosberg said. "From then on the car was feeling great and just controlling the pace and playing it safe.
"Two wins in a row now, good points, that's where my focus is. Five wins, three wins in a row, doesn't make a difference."
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was fourth and Romain Grosjean fifth in another encouraging performance by the new American-based Haas team. Toro Rosso teenager Max Verstappen was sixth and Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat seventh, ahead of the Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Bottas, with McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne in 10th to take a point on his F1 debut.
There was drama on the warm-up lap as smoke began pouring from the back of Vettel's Ferrari and he immediately parked the car. It was the second reliability failure for Ferrari already this season after trouble struck Raikkonen in Australia.
Pole-sitter Hamilton again got off to a poor start, like he did in Melbourne, as he adjusts to the new rule restricting drivers to a single clutch at the start.
"Two separate incidents, but both equally as painful, perhaps this one today more painful," Hamilton said. "It was just not a good getaway by myself and nothing technical."
The Briton was running behind Rosberg at the first corner when Bottas made an ambitious move on the inside, braked too late and collided with the right side of the Mercedes, dropping Hamilton down to seventh at the end of the first lap.
Bottas was blamed by stewards and was forced to do a pitlane drive-through penalty.
"Everyone seemed to go very tight inside and it was too late," Bottas said. "I was trying to brake as hard as I could. I got a penalty and I'm sure he lost some places because of that. It's a shame."
With his chief rivals out of the equation, Rosberg sailed away up front, and pushed his lead to 8.5 seconds after six laps and more than 14 by the first round of pitstops for the top cars, beginning on lap 12.
The top three matched tire strategy except for Hamilton being put onto the hardest-available medium compound for his middle stint while Rosberg and Raikkonen were on softs. Despite that, Hamilton made his second stop before the pair in front of him.
Raikkonen has finished on the podium in Bahrain eight times without winning, and acknowledged that Ferrari must get on top of its engine troubles if it's to pose a threat to Mercedes this season.
"I had a bad start and after a few laps we were one straight behind Nico and it's hard to recover from that," Raikkonen said.
"We have some work to be done. It costs a lot of points for the drivers as well as the team."
Hamilton carried damage on the right side of the chassis throughout the race after the first-corner collision.
"I had so much damage on the car I could not keep up with Kimi," Hamilton said. "I lost a lot of performance on the car. Whoever was on the inside (in the collision) was in the blind spot; I couldn't see them."
The next round of the championship is the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on 17 April.