Lewis Hamilton has won the season opening Australian Grand Prix, leading his team mate Nico Rosberg from start to finish to secure an utterly dominant 1-2 victory for Mercedes AMG F1. Sebastian Vettel finished on 3rd in his first race for Ferrari.
Valtteri Bottas abandoned the race before it even started, as a statement notes he has a torn disc in his back and is unable to compete. Yesterday imediately after qualifying he was hospitalised with heavy back pain, despite having bitten through the pain to qualify third.
Kevin Magnussen also didn't start the Australian Grand Prix, along with Daniil Kvyat.
As the lights went out, Lewis Hamilton made a solid start from pole to retain his lead, diving into turn 1 ahead of his team mate and then Sebastian Vettel, even though Raikkonen had the better start of the Ferrari's. The Finn though did have a troubled entry into turn 1, leaving him strugling to get his foot down on the exit of the turn.
Raikkonen's pace surprised Nasr, who backed off and then saw Maldonado cut his own front tyre into him, sending the Venezuelan into the barriers. In good old tradition, the season hence started with a crash from Pastor Maldonado, bringing out the safety car to recover the badly damaged car.
During that safety car period, Marcus Ericsson also pitted, along with Perez. Grosjean entered the pits to retire with a Mercedes power unit failure.
3 laps later, the racing was on again, allowing Hamilton to sprint away, followed by Rosberg.
By lap 8, Hamilton held 2.5 seconds on his teammate, with Rosberg another 4 seconds ahead of Massa who himself is shadowed by Vettel. Nasr is fourth, 6 seconds down on Vettel and leading a pack with Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Sainz. Verstappen in the second Toro Rosso is 4 seconds further down, followed by Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Button and Perez.
On lap 14, following some close fighting, Perez finally had a go at Button in turn 3, trying to move away from last place. He took the inside line on the the approach, but saw Button voilently close the door. Some pieces of carbon came off of Perez' Force India, but no major damage. Button was subsequently told to keep fighting hard for his place, knowing that there may be points as only 13 cars are competing.
On lap 17 Raikkonen is the first to pit, unable to find a way past Ricciardo. Despite a sluggish stop with some delay on the left rear, Raikkonen rejoined in 11th place, more then 15 seconds ahead of Button and Perez.
On lap 22, Massa pitted for his first stop, changing from softs to mediums. He was 3rd before his stop and rejoined the race in 6th, just ahead of Carlos Sainz and behind Ricciardo. The latter though pitted 2 laps later, allowing Massa to push on.
Another lap later, Vettel pitted and rejoined ahead of Massa. Sainz pitted moments later but was stuck for 25 seconds as the team failed to quickly release the left rear tyre on his Toro Rosso.
Hamilton pitted one lap later, followed by Rosberg on lap 26.
Lap 32 marks the end of the race for Verstappen. Just after having pitted for a new set of tyres, the Renault engine seemingly let go as oilsmoke was repeatedly seen before the Dutchman stopped alongside the pit entry. That reduces the field to just 12 cars, with Button in a distant last place.
On lap 42, Raikkonen is also finished for the day as his pit crew released him while the left rear wasn't fixed properly yet. The Finn was soon signalled though and parked his car after turn 4, leaving just 11 cars on track.
Meanwhile at the front, nothing major is happening as Rosberg follows Hamilton, maintaining a gap of approximately 2 to 3 seconds. Vettel is third but saving some fuel did allow Massa to creep closer again. Nasr continues in 5th, a few seconds ahead of Ricciardo. Hulkenberg is another 40 seconds down, 15s ahead of Sainz and Ericsson. Perez and Button are a long way down on the them as well.
2 laps from the end, Ericsson gets past Sainz, making use of his soft tyres that are comfortably faster than Sainz' well worn mediums.
Until the finish, neither Mercedes was threatened, and the only man finishing out of the points was Jenson Button, even though McLaren will be happy to see some reliable running from its car.
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+1 lap||8|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+1 lap||6|
|8||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 lap||4|
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||+1 lap||2|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1 lap||1|
|11||Jenson Button||McLaren||+2 laps||0|
|RT||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||DNF||0|
|DNS||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||DNS||0|