Nico Rosberg and Mercedes dominated the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this morning, finishing over twenty seconds ahead of nearest rival Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull who struggled to stay with the unstoppable F1W05.
Rosberg seized the lead at the very start, passing pole-sitting team-mate Lewis Hamilton and 2nd placed Ricciardo who both had troubled getaways; in the case of Hamilton the problem became more evident when he fell behind Kevin Magnussen on the third lap before being ordered in to retire the car with a cylinder failure. This left Nico Hulkenberg in 4th, ahead of Fernando Alonso, Jean Eric Vergne, Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat, with Bottas going great guns as he made progress after his penalty in qualifying for a gearbox change.
Things weren’t so good for Williams second driver, Felipe Massa, as he was eliminated in a first corner accident when Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi misjudged his breaking and crashed into the back of the Brazilian’s car. There was trouble for Lotus too, with Romain Grosjean starting from the pitlane and being joined by Marussia’s Max Chilton. Jules Bianchi made it three cars starting from the pitlane when he encountered problems on the grid, forcing the field to take a second parade lap.
With the racing underway Bottas made more progress and looked to threaten Alonso for 5th place, but a swipe with the turn ten exit barrier caused a major puncture that literally deflated his hopes of a podium and necessitated a second rise though the field. Jenson Button took advantage of the ensuing safety car to pit and make up two places, passing Kvyat and Raikkonen and moving into 6th place.
Rosberg reasserted his lead at the restart, quickly pulling four seconds clear of Ricciardo who had his hands full watching Magnussen behind; Hulkenberg still ran 4th but was struggling with graining which allowed a queue of cars to form behind him, though none managed to create an overtaking opportunity even with the aid of ERS and DRS. Button prompted the second round of stops on lap thirty five, leapfrogging Alonso and Hulkenberg after changing to the harder compound tyre. The time lost by Hulkenberg resulted in Alonso managing to jump him too and left him at the mercy of the resurgent Bottas later in the race.
Out front, Rosberg never looked like losing his lead and crossed the line twenty four seconds clear of Ricciardo, who managed to stave off a late race attack from Magnussen. Button’s 4th place secures McLaren’s lead of the Constructor’s Championship, while Alonso, Bottas, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen completed the top eight. Toro Rosso took cheer from a double points finish with Vergne in 9th and Kvyat 10th, a tonic after a difficult testing period.
There were seven retirements from the race, including World Champion Sebastian Vettel who succumbed to engine failure after five laps. Both Lotuses failed to finish, while Jules Bianchi finished the race eight laps down on winner Rosberg.
CLASSIFICATION – RACE – 2014 AUSTRALIAN GP