MANAMA (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg slipped further behind championship-leading Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One standings on Sunday but showed at least that he had lost none of his fighting spirit.
The German is now 27 points behind the Briton after the double world champion took his third win in four races in Bahrain.
But for brake problems, which allowed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to pass and denied Mercedes a one-two finish, the gap would have been narrower but Rosberg at least answered some critics.
“Everybody who ever doubted Nico saw Nico at his best, fighting hard and overtaking,” said Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff after the German, accused by Hamilton of not trying and being too slow at the previous race in China, finished third.
“Losing that position because of a brake failure is a bit of a pity, but all in all a one and three must be satisfactory,” he added.
“We are four races into the season and there are another 15 left, so I have no doubt that after his driving today, which was exceptional, we will have a very strong Nico bouncing back in Barcelona.”
Rosberg was third on the grid, and immediately lost out to Raikkonen after being squeezed at the start.
From then on, while Hamilton led from pole, the meat of the race became the cut and thrust between Rosberg’s Mercedes and the resurgent Ferraris.
Rosberg thrice passed Sebastian Vettel, only to lose out in the pitstops, before his compatriot made a mistake and damaged his car’s front wing.
With Vettel no longer posing a threat, and finishing fifth, Raikkonen became more of one and the closing stages saw a battle between the two before Rosberg ran wide as the brakes gave out.
“It started off on a disappointing note for me after the start with losing the position to Kimi. I just did the wrong... well, got caught out,” said Rosberg.
”But then immediately I felt that the car was awesome, so went full on the attack straight away and was happy to get by Kimi and Sebastian. Great fight with those, that was very exciting at that point in time.
“Unfortunately (I was) struggling with brakes a little bit throughout the whole race and just lost them. Two laps from the end I lost the brakes, so went straight on and had to carry the car home for the last two laps.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar