A little more than half of the grid starting and many retirements did not stop Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes from continuing his domination of the World Driving Championship, as the Briton and current world champion led from start to finish Sunday afternoon to win the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park. Teammate Nico Rosberg closed in to finish second, coming back to narrow the deficit to only finish 1.3 seconds behind Hamilton. Third was a pleased Sebastian Vettel, in his first drive for Ferrari.
“It’s quite unbelievable, really, what this team has done.” He said. “It’s a great feeling to start off the season the way we finished the last and the car is just incredible, so thank you to the team. It was still a tough race, though, as Nico was very quick throughout. It was about managing fuel and also the tyres – trying to see how long we could push them. Once I’d built a two second gap it was about maintaining it. But when Nico turned up the heat it was tough. He drove really well and it’s a great result for the team to start the season with a 1-2.”
The action was getting intense even before the lights went out. On the warm up lap, Kevin Magnussen could not even get to the starting grid, parking his McLaren Honda on the back part of the circuit with a technical issue .Just as this was occurring, Dani Kvyat in his Red Bull had a transmission problem and parked his car just after the start/finish line.
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Once the race was underway, the grid only had 15 cars on the starting line, and just as expected, Hamilton shot out in front of his teammate, and controlled the race by just over a two second gap. But as the Mercedes drivers were out in front, the back of the grid was dicey as Pastor Maldonado collided with Felipe Nasr and struck the wall. Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean also was involved in the shunt and even as the safety car was out for a few laps, already both Lotus entries were done for the day.
Hamilton got a quick start as the safety car came in, and never looked back. The Mercedes duo had no competition for all the race, with Rosberg finally closing in with a handful of laps to go. But the world champion had a response to this, and even with the German gaining on him, it was not good enough as Hamilton began the year as a hot favorite to win his third title. The sad song of the day went to rookie Max Verstappen, who was in running in the points until his Renault engine let go on lap 34. Kimi Raikkonen was also part of this group, running in fourth and on a two stop strategy until on his second stop, his tire was not properly fitted and pulled off the course just minutes later.
Williams only ran one car because of a back injury by Valterri Bottas, leaving Felipe Massa to drive to a fourth place finish. Sauber, who had no points last season, answered this year by having Nasr finish in Fifth and his teammate Marcus Ericsson eighth. Force India was never a threat in the race, but the placings of Nico Hulkenberg in seventh and Sergio Perez in tenth proved that the car is stable enough. Finally, having problems all weekend with their Renault engines was still good enough to place Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo sixth in front of his home crowd and Carlos Sainz Jr. ninth in the Toro Rosso in his first formula one race.
Hamilton enjoyed the moment, and noticed that there were some new faces on the podium.
“It’s good to see Ferrari back up here on the podium. Stated Hamilton. “I think they have taken a big step, so I anticipate a good fight with them this year at some point and we can’t back off. In fact, the podium was pretty awesome. I don’t often get star struck but I can’t believe I was up there with the Terminator! Anyway, we’ve learned a lot this weekend and there will be a lot of analysis to do before Malaysia. Hopefully we’ll keep finding ways to improve. Just because we had that gap today it doesn’t mean we’ll be cruising. There’s still a long way to go.”