The drama started at turns 2 and 3. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel lined up in seventh on the grid because of a five-place gearbox penalty, Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat sat next to him in eighth. Kvyat hit the back of Vettel's Ferrari in the braking zone for Turn 2, shoving Vettel into Daniel Ricciardo – Kvyat's teammate. Kyvat then clobbered the back of Vettel's car at the entry to Turn 3, spinning the German into the wall and out of the race. Kvyat probably regrets saying before the race that he would show Vettel "no mercy" on the first lap.
At the back of the grid at Turn 2, Haas F1's Esteban Gutíerrez hit Force India's Nico Hülkenberg and Manor's Rio Haryanto. Gutíerrez continued, both the Force India and the Manor retired.
A brief Virtual Safety Car period ensued, then the actual Safety Car emerged for three laps while marshals cleaned up the track. Mercedes-AMG Petronas driver Nico Rosberg nailed the restart and took off for the rest of the race.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton battled his own gremlins all weekend but still finished second, 25 seconds behind Rosberg. During the final qualifying session on Saturday Hamilton's car suffered the same MGU-H failure as in China two weeks ago. The problem relegated him to tenth on the grid. In the race, Hamilton fought his way to second place by Lap 19 out of 53 laps and began closing the 13-second gap to Rosberg. On Lap 37, the gap now under eight seconds, Mercedes told Hamilton his car had a water pressure issue. The malfunction forced the Briton to manage his race and settle for second. Afterward, Hamilton said he was certain he could have won if not for the malfunction.
The rest of the top ten barely changed throughout the contest. The first five positions on Lap 21 crossed the finish line in that order 32 laps later. Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen took the final podium position ahead of the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
The next five runners effectively locked into position as of Lap 36, with a retirement deciding the final order – Max Verstappen parked his Toro Rosso from sixth place with an engine failure. That promoted Fernando Alonso to sixth for McLaren, ahead of Kevin Magnussen scoring Renault's first points of the season, and Romain Grosjean getting Haas back in the points. Force India's Sergio Perez finished ninth, McLaren's Jenson Button rounded out the top ten.
Even with a lack of on-track action, the race delivered bright spots and questions for the season. Mercedes' reputation for reliability took another hit, as the Anglo-German outfit still hasn't completed a weekend without problems. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff suggested the team is pushing the limits of development in trying to stay ahead of Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton still has 18 remaining races to get his Driver's Championship defense on track but he'll need the Mercedes engineers to get the bugs out of his car asap.
Ferrari has a mixed bag of news to sort through. On the one hand, Räikkönen scored the Italian team's 700th career podium in Sochi. On the other, the scuderia couldn't get closer than 0.7 seconds to Mercedes in qualifying, and Ferrari hasn't showed championship potential after four races.
After years in the woods, McLaren is knocking on the door of the top ten. The team from Woking missed out on the Q3 qualifying session by tenths of a second, but both cars earned points on race day at a track that demands power. The last time McLaren scored double points: the slow-speed Hungaroring in 2015.
And you can consider the driver silly season officially begun: the rumormill predicts Russian Daniil Kvyat to be out of his Red Bull seat next year, replaced by Toro Rosso driver Verstappen.
Rosberg's fourth win in four races this season gives him seven in a row going back to last year's Mexican Grand Prix. The German joins Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher, and Sebastian Vettel as the only F1 drivers to take seven consecutive victories. Rosberg leads the Driver's Championship table with 100 points, his teammate Hamilton in second with 57 points, Räikkönen in third with 43 points.
Mercedes' 30th career one-two finish puts the team way out ahead with 157 points. Ferrari holds second with 76 points, Williams creeping up in third with 51 points. F1 heads back to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix in two weeks, we'll see you then.