Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton wins attritional Australian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton got his championship defence off to the perfect start with a commanding victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Briton led all but one of the 58 laps in Melbourne as he kept team-mate Nico Rosberg at arms distance crossing the finish line just 1.3 seconds clear of the German without really being troubled at Albert Park.

In a race-long battle, it was Sebastian Vettel's superior pace around the one and only pit-stop that saw him overhaul the Williams of Felipe Massa to claim the final podium place in third on his Ferrari debut.

A depleted grid

Continuing what has been a week full of drama Down Under, several drivers were unable to take the grid for the start of the race meaning only 15 cars lined up when the lights went out.

Valtteri Bottas suffered a slight disc tear in his back during qualifying and failed a pre-race fitness test conducted by the FIA, as a result Massa was left the only Williams to battle with the two Ferrari's though it is expected the Finn will recover in time to race in Malaysia in two weeks time.

At McLaren, Kevin Magnussen's rather miserable weekend, sitting in for the resting Fernando Alonso, ended up in smoke on his lap to the grid as an engine failure meant he too was unable to make the grid and Daniil Kvyat will also have to wait until Sepang to make his first race start for Red Bull as a gearbox issue meant the Russian lost all drive and had to pull over on his installation lap.

Hamilton leads away as Maldonado crashes

With concerns as to just how many would make the chequered flag, the 2015 season began with Lewis Hamilton getting away well from pole and would lead Nico Rosberg into turn one, however, close behind, a clumsy apex from Sebastian Vettel saw him bump into his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who lost momentum and sparked a reaction behind that would result in Pastor Maldonado being spun into the wall on the outside of turn two.

After getting both cars into the top 10 for the first time in 20 races, Lotus' day would end after just one lap as Romain Grosjean joined Maldonado back in the garage following a mechanical problem.

Raikkonen's recovery as Ricciardo struggles

A poor start had also dropped Daniel Ricciardo down the grid in the Red Bull and he was seventh as the first lap ended under the safety car, but the scale of the Renault-powered team's problems would unravel as the Australian spent the race behind the much improved and the very impressive Sauber of Felipe Nasr.

Kimi Raikkonen began his recovery from the first corner shenanigans and though he too was stuck behind Ricciardo and Nasr, a switch to a two-stop strategy would reap a reward.

Despite a very slow first pit-stop he was able to jump both the Sauber and Red Bull and was setting the fastest times for quite a few laps, however, the issue that hampered him at the first stop would be terminal at the second as the left rear wheel failed to attach properly forcing him to pull over and retire.

That would promote Nasr and Ricciardo upto fifth and sixth where the two would eventually finish.

Midfield teams seize scoring opportunity

With the problems before the start and the early exit of the Lotus' it was a day for midfield teams to score some good points and they did just that.

Sauber, having failing to score a point in the whole of 2014, claimed 14 of them to kick start the season following Felipe Nasr's fifth and a late burst from Marcus Ericsson also saw the Swede score his first F1 points in eighth.

Force India put the delays from pre-season testing behind them and captured some good points as well as Nico Hulkenberg claimed seventh with team-mate Sergio Perez overcoming a spirited battle with former team-mate Jenson Button to claim tenth.

Carlos Sainz completed what was an impressive debut weekend for both Toro Rosso drivers as the Spaniard claimed ninth. Sadly Max Verstappen, who officiall became the youngest driver in F1 history at just 17, wasn't so lucky as a mechanical problem forced him to retire just after completing his one and only pit-stop.

Button left the odd man out

Eleven cars from the 15 that began made it to the chequered flag and that mean the only driver to finish and leave Melbourne point-less was Jenson Button in the McLaren.

The 2009 champion was the only driver to be lapped twice during the race but for the Honda-powered team it was easily the most consecutive laps the new engine has done with 56 and much will have learnt as the engineers look to extract more performance as the season goes on.

Hamilton lays down a marker

Back at the front, however, and it was all about Lewis Hamilton who laid down a strong marker to team-mate Nico Rosberg in the first of what will be a many battles as the pair contest for this year's world championship.

The works Mercedes remain in a league of their own and for the sake of the season man will be hoping the German can find a response when Formula 1 heads to sweltering Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a fortnight's time.

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Marcus Ericsson
Felipe Nasr
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Formula 1

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