TYRE problems again put paid to any hopes Daniel Ricciardo had of stepping onto the podium of the world’s newest Grand Prix circuit, at Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Perth driver slotted his Red Bull Renault into third place on the grid but inherited second place after Mexico’s Sergio Perez was penalised five places for changing his Force India’s gearbox.
The race that followed on the street circuit of the ancient city – nestled 28m below sea level and dating back to the fifth century – surprised almost everyone.
Despite its 2km superfast straight, sweeping bends and a narrow, Monaco-like section through the old part, there were no incidents and the 51-lap event ran its entire course at a sizzling pace.
Rosberg, who led from start, averaged an eye-watering 306km/h in his Mercedes and reached 360km/h down the straight.
Ricciardo had a good start too, holding on to second place until lap 5, when Sebastien Vettel got by in his Ferrari as the Red Bull’s super-soft tyres lost their grip.
“I felt pretty good in the first few laps, especially as I could see Seb (Vettel) wasn’t catching me,” Ricciardo said.
“But then the rear started to slide and there was no way of controlling it. I went from being very optimistic about our race to being uncertain.”
The Red Bull team’s plan for a one-stop tyre strategy had to be adapted to two stops, which cost many places, and Ricciardo eventually finished seventh.
“I don’t think we could have done anything else,” he said.
“I got everyone’s hopes up by saying it could be the race of the season. It was, however, pretty uneventful.”
Lewis Hamilton also had a frustrating race.
Expected to challenge Rosberg for the lead, his Mercedes developed a problem with its hybrid power system, which he could have easily fixed, but new rules prevented his pit from telling him what to do via radio and he finished fifth.
The best duel was for third, fought between Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari and Sergio Perez, with the Mexican edging his Force India past on the last lap.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was sixth, ahead of Ricciardo and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Williams’ Felipe Massa completing the top 10.