Sebastien Vettel took the chequered flag from Daniel Ricciardo by 1.4 seconds at the chequered flag, after what was a Safety Car interrupted 61 lap race.
The Ferrari driver managed to get a good getaway from his gridslot alongside Ricciardo, with the grid emerging more or less in order heading into turn four. The Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen however had an issue on the grid, which stopped him from getting away and forced him to rejoin at the very back of the pack.
Meanwhile it was a melee of cars heading into turn 8, which nearly resulted in contact between Hulkenberg and Perez before the latter swerved out of the way of his teammate. The first round of pitstops didn’t come till around lap nine, when the Lotus of Romain Grosjean pitted first in order to get the undercut on Fernando Alonso.
It worked out will for the Lotus boys, getting Grosjean out in the clean air so he could close the gap to Alonso, who pitted the next lap. The pair were side-by-side through turns 4 and 5, but the Lotus managed to get ahead into turn 7 despite the McLaren putting up a good fight.
Daniil Kvyat was the first of the leaders to pit, however it turned out to be a bad decision from Red Bull as just a couple of laps later the first Safety Car came out for the cleanup of Hulkenberg’s car down at turn 3, which made contact with Felipe Massa as the Williams driver came out of the pits. That earned the Force India driver a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Japan.
This prompted the leaders to pit, putting Kvyat in P6 – losing out to both Mercedes drivers. When the Safety Car came in we started to see Vettel control the pace up front to make way for his two-stop strategy. The gap went below DRS range at points, however Ricciardo never made a move knowing he was trying to copy the Ferrari’s.
At this point Hamilton reported a “loss of power” over his team radio, which turned out to be an issue with his throttle pedal. That made him tumble down the order, first getting passed by Rosberg, then Kvyat, then Bottas. By the next ten laps he was down in 17th outside of the points, with the team eventually taking the decision to retire him in order to save the engine. Also told to pit was Fernando Alonso with a problem in his McLaren Honda, making him the next casualty of this race.
Felipe Massa meanwhile did a drive-thru the pits in order to fix a problem with his gearbox, which forced it into neutral. After the team tried some things to rectify, they eventually took the decision to retire him after he rejoined outside of the points in P17.
The pace up front meanwhile was still being controlled by Vettel, but before we could see this stint through a rather bizarre situation occurred when a man entered the track down at turn 13. That brought out the Safety Car again, and gave Vettel yet another break to his rivals that allowed him to pit.
These last few stops turned out to be the end, with the restart being crucial for those on the Super Soft tyre racing those on the Soft. This turned out to be both Toro Rosso drivers, who after both experiencing bad luck early on in the race, were now on a comeback drive. Verstappen and Sainz made quick work of both Sauber’s and Romain Grosjean, before chasing down Perez in the closing stages.
Meanwhile the two Lotus’ were battling with the remaining McLaren of Jenson Button. Maldonado was ahead going into turn 17, but the trio of cars accordioned as the Lotus driver parked it on the apex, causing Button to make contact with his front wing. The McLaren driver quipped over the team radio “That was my fault, should’ve known he [Maldonado] was mental,” as he pitted to change the damaged wing.
Maldonado meanwhile seemed to drop off, allowing Grosjean and the two Sauber’s through before changing his tyres for his third and final stop. Meanwhile up front the two Toro Rosso’s were running close to Perez. The team radioed to Verstappen “Let your teammate through” only to receive a stern “No” from the 17 year-old in response, as he felt he could overtake the Force India.
As the laps counted down though, we switched focus to Sebastien Vettel, who took his third victory in 2015 and extended his chase to second in the drivers championship with 25 well earned points. Daniel Ricciardo finished second, Kimi Raikkonen third, Nico Rosberg a lone fourth, with Valterri Bottas rounding out the top five.