MELBOURNE, Australia – Nico Rosberg grabbed the lead at the start of Sunday’s Formula One Australian Grand Prix and was never really challenged as he and Mercedes ushered in Formula One racing’s new 1.6-litre turbo engine era with a dominant 24.5 second victory over local hero Daniel Ricciardo at Albert Park on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.
The Red Bull driver made the most of the team’s extraordinary turnaround to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home Grand Prix. Unfortunately for Ricciardo, he didn’t get to celebrate for long. Stewards later stripped him of his second-place finish after discovering his car exceeded the maximum fuel-flow limit during Sunday’s race.
That catapulted Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen to second and his McLaren teammate Jenson Button to third. Red Bull is contesting the decision and has filed an appeal.
“It’s been an amazing time here in Melbourne,” Rosberg said. “It’s been an amazing day. I’m just over the moon really. It’s incredible, everybody has worked so hard over the winter and now to have such an amazing Silver Arrow to drive is just unreal. This thing was unbelievably quick today and the reliability was good also, so it was just the perfect start to the season. I’m really thankful to Mercedes, they have done an amazing job over the winter.”
The race began with drama when the first start had to be aborted as Jules Bianchi’s Marussia stalled at the start. Moments earlier teammate Max Chilton’s sister car had also stalled on the grid formation lap, so the two Banbury-built machines joined Romain Grosjean’s Lotus in starting from the pit lane. The race was thus shortened by a lap.
Polesitter Lewis Hamilton was very slow away in his Mercedes and immediately lost places to Rosberg and Ricciardo, and by lap three it was over for the Englishman as he brought his F1 W05 into the pits to retire. It was subsequently revealed that his engine was misfiring on one cylinder.
The other drama at the start involved Kamui Kobayashi, who made what seemed to be a great start as he pulled alongside Valtteri Bottas’s Williams. Unfortunately, the Caterham driver then got his braking wrong, locked up and made contact with Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari before clobbering the innocent Felipe Massa as they headed into turn one. Both Kobayashi and Massa were instant retirements, whilst the Japanese driver – who accepted responsibility for the incident – was summoned to see the stewards.
There was plenty of action in the opening laps as Rosberg lead Ricciardo, Magnussen, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and the Toro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
Bottas was the man on the move, passing fellow countryman Raikkonen in a bold move round the outside on the eighth lap. But Bottas then slid wide and hit the outside wall coming out of turn 10, damaging his right rear tire. He was able to pit to have it replaced, but the safety car was deployed on the 12th lap as a chunk of the FW36’s wheel rim had to be removed from the track.