Formula 1

Nico Rosberg strolls to Australian GP win for Mercedes

Rosberg claimed victory by 24 seconds in Melbourne (©GettyImages)
Rosberg claimed victory by 24 seconds in Melbourne (©GettyImages).

Nico Rosberg claimed a dominant victory at the Australian Grand Prix as the new V6 era officially began.

The German strolled to a comfortable 24 second win ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, with Kevin Magnussen taking third on his debut for McLaren.

Lewis Hamilton led away from pole at the second attempt following Jules Bianchi’s failure to launch at the initial start, but it was Rosberg who took the lead into the first corner ahead of Ricciardo.

Felipe Massa’s race was brought to a premature end as Kamui Kobyashi, on his return to F1 with Caterham, totally messed up his braking into the first turn eliminating the Williams and almost taking out Kimi Raikkonen.

With issues seemingly hampering his Mercedes, Hamilton was then passed by Magnussen into turn one and on lap four pulled into the garage as an issue with one of the six cylinders in the engine forced him to retire.

No sooner had one world champion been forced out the race, another followed suit as Sebastian Vettel, who has had a horrid weekend in Melbourne, pulled into the pits with electrical problems hitting his RB10.

The other Red Bull of Ricciardo was running fine, but couldn’t match Rosberg ahead as the Mercedes pulled out a six-second gap in the first ten laps.

Drama behind as Valtteri Bottas, recovering from his five-place grid drop after qualifying, was up to sixth from 15th, however, the Finn made contact with the wall losing his right-rear tyre.

The Safety Car was deployed for the debris on the circuit and the leaders took advantage making their first pit-stops of the season with Kimi Raikkonen losing two positions in the ensuing melee.

The stint behind the Safety Car made the need to save fuel less important, though teams were still largely unable to run at full power.

At the restart Rosberg began to pull away again as Ricciardo pulled out a small but manageable gap to Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg was running fourth for Force India but a queue began to form behind the German with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Jean-Eric Vergne running almost nose-to-tail.

The traffic would be broken by Button who pitted a lap before Hulkenberg and Vergne, as a result he was able to jump clear of them and Fernando Alonso, who went an additional lap longer in the Ferrari, and up into fourth.

Bottas was recovering back through the field after his earlier mistake passing Vergne, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg in the final stint to claim a sixth place that could have been so much better.

Alonso was able to jump Hulkenberg through the final stops and ran a comfortable fifth to the finish.

Daniil Kvyat was having a good debut race in the second Toro Rosso and by staying out of trouble the Russian made the finish, which was the main aim for all the Renault teams, collecting a championship point in 10th.

While two Renault teams ran well, Lotus too also had a better race than most predicted, however the lack of testing soon caught up as both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, who retired around two-thirds into the race with ERS-related problems.

Both Sauber’s were reliable if a bit slow, though Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez both finished, albeit outside the points, ahead of the Marussias as Max Chilton continued his run of 20 straight finishes and Bianchi ran around last, though was not classified in 15th.

With the battles pretty stable throughout the midfield, eyes turned to the front where both McLaren’s began to catch Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Magnussen got within DRS range but could not quite maintain consistency as Ricciardo was able to hold him off to the end as Button too never really challenged those ahead in fourth.

But the race belonged to Mercedes and Nico Rosberg, who drove at a speed far quicker than anyone could manage and he claimed his first win since Monaco last year to take full advantage of his team-mate’s misfortune.

The German was delighted as was Ricciardo, whose famous smile beamed to the cheers of the home fans on the podium, while Magnussen too matched the achievement of the last rookie to start his career at McLaren, Lewis Hamilton, by starting fourth and finishing third.

Reliability was better than most had predicted with 14 cars classified and the role of fuel saving, with each car limited to 100kg, was key but not overbearing.

Overall the first race of the new V6 era was a resounding success and for Rosberg and Mercedes, the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks time can not come soon enough.

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Formula 1

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