Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton wins the Australian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with only eleven cars finishing the race after reliability issues plagued the grid.

15 Car Grid

The opening weekend to the season saw many teams struggle with reliability issues, which resulted in only fifteen cars making it to the grid.

Manor Marussia were the phoenix that was supposed to rise gloriously from the ashes of its financial woes last season but, despite making significant progress in the garage, the team were unable to set wheels in motion and did not take part in qualifying, nor the race.

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As a result, the McLaren-Hondas of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen (who was standing in for the injured Fernando Alonso) started on the back row of the grid - or, rather, Button's McLaren Honda did, as Magnussen suffered an engine failure en-route to the grid.

This may prove costly should the damage to the power unit turn out to be terminal, as teams are limited to just four engines across the season and to lose one of them in the first race may lead to poor performance in the latter stages of the season on worn engines.

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Valtteri Bottas was ruled out of the Grand Prix following a lower-back injury (believed to be a torn disc), which he suffered during Saturday's qualifying. After getting on the power too early out of the final corner during Q3, Bottas went off the end of the kerb and hit a patch of dirt, sending the car into a spin which he quickly corrected, aggravating the injury.

He passed one stage of the extraction test in which the driver has to exit the car in under five seconds, but failed the second stage as he had difficulty in pulling his knees up in the cockpit, leaving the doctors with no choice but to declare him unfit to drive.

Due to Bottas' participation in qualifying, Williams were unable to call upon Susie Wolff, their test driver (though not reserve driver as was pointed out by Pat Symmonds in an interview with Sky Sports F1), meaning they could only run one car for the race.

Red Bull's weekend had not been anywhere near as positive as they would have hoped, with Daniel Ricciardo in particular complaining of a lack of 'drive-ability' caused by their Renault engine. It was, however, Daniil Kvyat who failed to make the start of the race after losing fifth gear on his car and taking a trip into the gravel trap on his way to the grid.

Lotus Lose Out

After a strong weekend in which both Lotus' made it into Q3 for the first time since the US Grand Prix in 2013, both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean were out of the race in the first lap.

After contact between Felipe Nasr and Kimi Raikkonen, Maldonado was sent spinning into the wall at the second corner and Grosjean retired his car when he returned to the pits at the end of the lap.

The Battle For Third

The battle for third place dominated much of the coverage of the race and understandably so, with four drivers in the mix for position. Ferrari had shown good pace and reliability through testing, a marked improvement on last year, and this form was continued in Melbourne, with new-recruit Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen right up there battling Felipe Massa in the Williams.

The fourth driver challenging the group was perhaps less expected - Felipe Nasr proved that Sauber's testing performance was no fluke and that he was more than up to the challenge of competing with the top drivers. In the end, Vettel took third after undercutting Massa in the pits, while the Brazilian was held up by the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

Massa finished fourth, failing to regain the place, while Sauber rookie Nasr finished in an impressive fifth place. Raikkonen, however, failed to finish after leaving the pits with a loose rear left wheel, which the stewards decided required no further action as the team called for him to stop as soon as they realised the problem.

Toro Rossso Rookies

As the youngest driver line-up on the grid with a combined age of just 37, Max Verstappen (17) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (20) had a point to prove to those who doubted their credibility and the pair did so comfortably.

Verstappen is the youngest driver ever to race in Formula One, but showed maturity in his performance, taking his Toro Rosso up to sixth before an engine failure forced him to retire the car on lap 32. Sainz Jr. on the other hand was somewhat more fortunate and finished in a respectable ninth place, despite a botched pit stop which forced him down to thirteenth.

The car itself looked impressive and certainly capable of challenging the senior Red Bull team, who were running the same engine mapping as Toro Rosso. Verstappen and Sainz Jr. look like they could be in a good position to challenge Ricciardo and Kvyat - watch this space.

And the Rest?

Well, it comes as no surprise that the field was led by the two Mercedes, with their reliability and pace shown to be even more impressive than last season throughout Winter testing. Hamilton seemed to be driving fairly comfortably from start to finish, with Rosberg closing the gap in the latter stages of the race, but to no avail. Unless Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams can come up with improvements quickly, we may see another season which is dominated by the Silver Arrows.

The Force Indias looked fairly mediocre throughout, with any improvements made over the Winter break in proportion to those made by other teams. Nico Hulkenberg finished in seventh, with Sergio Perez finishing tenth, despite having to drop back to thirteenth after illegally overtaking Marcus Ericsson.

Perez found himself racing Jenson Button in the McLaren-Honda for twenty minutes or so, but the lack of power of the Honda engine meant that all that stood in Perez's way was Button's impressive defensive driving.

As for Button, he will be pleased to have made it to the end of the race, even if he did finish last of the eleven cars that made it to the end. The McLarens' longest stint over the weekend was a mere twelve laps, so to survive an entire race distance on one of the most demanding tracks for the power unit on the calendar is certainly something to be proud of given the poor reliability of the car.

The full results from the 2015 Australian Grand Prix

 1) Hamilton      (Mercedes)  01:3154.067
 2) Rosberg      (Mercedes)   +00:01.360
 3) Vettel           (Ferrari)        +00:34.523
 4) Massa         (Williams)     +00:38.196
 5) Nasr            (Sauber)       +01:35.149
 6) Ricciardo    (Red Bull)       Lapped
 7) Hulkenberg (Force India)   Lapped
 8) Ericsson     ( Sauber)        Lapped
 9) Sainz Jr      (Toro Ross)    Lapped
10) Perez        (Force India)    Lapped
11) Button       (McLaren)        Lapped
R) Raikkonen  (Ferrari)           Retired (40)
R) Verstappen (Toro Rosso)  Retired (32)
R) Grosjean     (Lotus)            Retired (1)
R) Maldonado  (Lotus)            Crashed (0)
R) Magnussen (McLaren)       DNS
R) Kvyat           (Red Bull)       DNS
R) Bottas         (Williams)       DNS

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