Nico Rosberg has kicked off his 2016 F1 campaign with the perfect start after he secured a win at a drama-filled Australian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver fought back from a poor start to pick up where he left off in 2015, beating teammate and polesitter Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel onto the top step of the podium.
Local boy Daniel Ricciardo had a strong race to finish fourth for Red Bull ahead of Williams' Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, who secured a dream start for newcomer Haas F1 with his sixth place finish after 57 laps.
Despite Mercedes’ dominant pace in qualifying, it was Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen that led the race early on. The Ferrari drivers charged into the first two positions from the second row of the grid to head the field into turn one, but their advantage was lost on lap 17 when the race was red flagged following a horror smash for Fernando Alonso.
The race paused for 20 minutes as marshals cleared the debris left by the Alonso’s McLaren, which had rolled at high speed into the gravel trap at turn three after the Spaniard clipped the back of Haas F1’s Esteban Gutierrez. Alonso clambered out of the remains of his car and limped off of the circuit, but doctors thankfully gave him the all clear later on.
The race re-start brought the Mercedes drivers back into play, with both drivers using their superior pace and an early switch onto the harder tyre to leapfrog the Ferraris during pitstops. Though it looked like they might both still hold podium positions, a mechanical failure for Raikkonen meant Vettel was the only Ferrari able to challenge Mercedes.
The four-time champion kept the pressure on Hamilton in the latter stages of the race, but a small mistake caused him to fall back with just two laps remaining, allowing reigning champion Hamilton to safely secure second, crossing the line eight seconds behind Rosberg.
Further down the field, Britain’s Jolyon Palmer enjoyed a successful F1 debut by finishing 11th, with the 25-year-old showing maturity and strong race craft to cross the line nearly two seconds ahead of his chasing teammate Kevin Magnussen.
The F1 circus next assembles at the Bahrain International Circuit in two weeks. Fans may be happy to hear that the confusing knock-out qualifying format of this weekend’s Grand Prix will be abandoned, with the simpler format of last year returning for the rest of the season.
2016 Australian GP results
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h48m15.565s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 8.060s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 9.643s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/TAG Heuer 24.330s
5 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 58.979s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m12.081s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m14.199s
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m15.153s
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m15.680s
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m16.833s