By Adam Tate, Managing Editor
Nico Rosberg led home a Mercedes one-two finish from Albert Park in what was a madcap start the 2016 season. Despite the typical result of a Mercedes double podium, the circuitous route the race took to its conclusion proved entertaining, terrifying and intense.
The plot thickened before the race ever got underway as Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull succumbed to electrical gremlins by stalling on the way to his grid position. The team ran to remove the car while the rest of the field embarked upon a second tour of the circuit.
At the start, Sebastian Vettel had a lightning getaway to split the Mercedes and take the lead from third on the grid! Desperately trying to fend off his countryman, saw Nico Rosberg lock up into turn one which only served to run his team mate Lewis Hamilton wide. Hamilton was then passed by Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen. In a flash Hamilton had gone from first to sixth place.
He then began the race long process of trying to catch up. After several laps of trying he managed to finally get by Massa’s Williams, but he found it nearly impossible to get around Verstappen who used the Toro Rosso’s new-found Ferrari power could quite handily keep Hamilton at bay.
Further up the field, Sebastian Vettel had pulled out a lead of several seconds on team mate Raikkonen and the day looked to belong to the boys from Maranello.
The rhythm and order of Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Verstappen, Hamilton seemed settled until the first round of pit stops where the Ferrari’s opted for super softs and the Mercedes’ drivers for the more durable medium compounds. The chase for the podium was set to resume but the race took a drastic turn when Fernando Alonso in the McLaren, clipped the left rear of Esteban Gutierrez in the Haas and triggered one of the most savage crashes in recent memory, slamming the left front into a barrier before hitting the gravel trap at high speed where the car pitched in and rolled violently before it slammed into the tire wall.
Miraculously Gutierrez and especially Alonso were uninjured, but his McLaren was totaled and debris strewn all over the circuit. Charlie Whiting then Red Flagged the race in order to clear the debris from the track.
During the delay, most drivers chose to change tires and went for the more durable medium compounds, but Ferrari rolled the dice and sent their drivers back out on the super softs. Haas scored a major coupe because Grosjean had yet to pit and used the Red Flag as an opportunity to make his one and only ‘pit stop’ and change compounds.
At the start Vettel tried his hardest to pull away from Rosberg, but could never manage more than a lead of a few seconds which saw him drop down the order when he pitted where he was even further delayed by issues getting the left front on.
Despite the bad luck and poor strategy decision, Vettel kept the Mercedes honest and was the quickest car at the end of the race, coming in right on the heels of Hamilton, for a third place finish.
Rosberg enjoyed his 4th consecutive win, Hamilton finished nearly 9 seconds behind, with Vettel less than half a second behind him and bearing down hard.
Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a good fourth place in front of his home crowd. Felipe Massa brought his Williams home one spot better than he started with a fine fifth place finish.
The feel good story of the day belonged to Haas F1 Team, which became the first new team since Toyota to score points in their debut race when Romain Grosjean came home an astounding sixth place! An ecstatic Grosjean radioed into the team on thcool down lap shouting, “this is like a victory for us!”
Nico Hulkenberg had a solid day for Force India with seventh, just ahead of Valtteri Bottas who had a rough afternoon in the second Williams.
The Toro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen claimed the final points paying positions after a fantastic battle with each other and rookie Jolyon Palmer in the Renault. Toro Rosso looks to have the third best car at the moment.
Other than Kvyat’s non start and the crash that took out Gutierrez and Alonso, there were several other retirements. Rio Haryanto took his Manor to the garage during the Red Flag period and it never reemerged. Kimi Raikkonen pulled into the Ferrari pitbox with is air intake spitting flames, resulting in another unrewarding day for the Finn. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson also had trouble and was forced to retire, which left only 16 finishers when the checkered flag waved.
It was a great day for Nico Rosberg, his 15th victory and fourth in a row will have his confidence at an all time high heading into Bahrain. Despite scoring a bit of an own goal it was still a very good day for Ferrari, who despite trailing Mercedes in qualifying, are much more of a match for the silver arrows on race pace. Ricciardo, Massa and the Toro Rosso boys should all have reason to be happy as their cars proved very competitive. The greatest winners for the day were Alonso, for escaping his wreck unscathed, Haas for their amazing achievement and the leadership of Formula One, who quickly acted before the race and agreed to revert to the old qualifying format for the remainder of the season. Hallelujah.
Australian Grand Prix Results
|1 hr 48 min 15.565s
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|+1 min 15.680s
|+1 min 16.833s
|+1 min 23.399s
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