Hamilton takes easy victory Down Under
Defending world champion, Lewis Hamilton, continued where he left off last year by taking victory in yesterday season opening Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne. In a race dominated by attrition, the Brit secured a lights-to-flag finish ahead of his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, and Ferrari’s four-time champion, Sebastian Vettel.
Having qualified on pole, nearly five tenths of a second faster than his teammate, Hamilton was left virtually unchallenged throughout the 58 lap race, finishing 1.3 seconds ahead of the German with Vettel securing his first podium for the prancing horse.
Behind the top three, Williams’ Felipe Mass lead home a depleted field of seven other cars in fourth following mechanical troubles and accidents that saw only 17 cars actually take the grid after the withdrawal of the struggling Manor Marussia team, and the second Williams of Valtteri Bottas. The Finn, who was due to start sixth, complained of back problems after qualifying and subsequently failed to start.
The starting number then shrunk to 15 after new Red Bull signing Danill Kvyat, and McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, both withdrew whilst heading to grid with the Russian suffering from gearbox failure, and the Dane, standing-in for the injured Fernando Alonso, retiring moments after existing the pits to due to a blown engine.
Moments after the five red lights went out, more shenanigans followed when Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen touched entering the first corner. Forced to back-off, Raikkonen was then clipped by the Sauber of Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr, who then locked wheels with the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado, leading to the Venezuelan spinning into the barriers and the deployment of the safety car.
Following a miserable season last year, more was in store for Lotus as Romain Grosjean, who had been slow away of the line, retired during the safety stint with engine problems. In effect, 13 cars took the start three laps later.
In a season similar to Lotus last year, Sauber were the biggest to reverse their fortunes with GP2 graduate Nasr shrugging the off the start line fracas to finish fifth, while his Swedish teammate Marcus Ericsson, who drove for the now defunct Caterham team in 2014, coming home eighth.
Finishing in between the two, new Red Bull team leader and local favourite, Daniel Ricciardo, endured a quite race to place sixth ahead of the Force India driven by Nico Hulkenberg. Completing the top ten, new Toro Rosso signing Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ninth ahead of the second Force India of Sergio Perez, and the McLaren of Jenson Button, with the team enduring a nightmare start to their alliance with engine supplier Honda.
Among the remaining casualties were Raikkonen, after a wheel nut crossed threaded during his second pit-stop, and the second Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, which went out with engine failure denying the 17 year old the chance of becoming the sport’s youngest points finisher.
“I didn't need any more confidence but it was reassuring for my method of getting my head in the right place. I can’t tell you how difficult a year it has been to this point so to come here with a fresh mind and execute it like that, I’m really happy,” a victorious Hamilton told Sky F1 after the race.
“I’m here to win. I’m not here to defend anything. I’ve got a great car and I just want to optimise that,” he said, adding that Rosberg’s pace throughout the race made matters a lot harder than many believed.
“Lewis didn’t make any mistakes and it wasn’t possible to get any closer. I was trying every single lap all the way to the maximum and I will do all year. I’ll give him a big run for his money,” said Rosberg.
The F1 circus now heads to Malaysia on March 29th for round two.
AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+ 1 Lap|
|7.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+ 1 Lap|
|8.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+ 1 Lap|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||+ 1 Lap|
|10.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+ 1 Lap|
|11.||Jenson Button||McLaren||+ 2 Lap|
|DNF||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||40 laps, loose wheel|
|DNF||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||32 laps, engine|
|DNF||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1 lap, engine|
|DNF||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||0 laps, crash|
|DNF||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||0 laps, gearbox|
|DNF||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren||0 laps, engine|
|DNS||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||driver ailment|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||8|
|7.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||6|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||2|
|10.||Sergio Perez||Force India||1|
|13.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso|
|16.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull|
CAPTION: Race winner Lewis Hamilton (right) and runner-up Nico Rosberg (left) celebrate yet another Mercedes one-two finish at yesterday's season opening Australian Grand Prix IMAGEsourced from www.smh.com.au
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