MELBOURNE, Victoria — official series release — Dan Istitene/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Mercedes dominated Sunday’s 2015 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton winning by 1.36 seconds over teammate Nico Rosberg as the Silver Arrows again proved they are the team to beat.
The win was Hamilton’s 34th career Grand Prix triumph, while Rosberg’s runner-up result proved the defending championship team has not lost any of its form from a year ago.
Behind the top two, however, there was drama aplenty as just 11 cars took the checkered flag.
Sebastian Vettel finished on the podium on his Ferrari debut, with Williams’ sole starter Felipe Massa taking fourth ahead of star rookie Felipe Nasr, who gave Sauber their first points since 2013 on his F1 debut.
With Williams’ Valtteri Bottas already ruled out of the race due to a back injury in qualifying and Marussia having failed to qualify, the 17 expected starters became 15 before the lights went out — after McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen (engine) and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat (brakes) both experienced car failures en route to the grid.
There would be further casualties on the first lap as well. Vettel made a slow start, allowing team mate Kimi Raikkonen to pull alongside heading into Turn 1. But as the German clipped the inside curb he was pushed across the road and inadvertently forced Raikkonen wide over the outer curb.
Delayed, the Finn came under attack from Nasr, who also had Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado alongside. The trio pinched together, pitching Maldonado into the barriers and putting another car out of the race.
As Raikkonen fell to eighth, Vettel chased after Massa’s Williams for the first half of the race. The pair’s fight swung on the first round of stops, with Vettel pitting later and emerging ahead. Though Massa would come back at him, Vettel was never truly troubled on his way to the podium.
Massa held on to fourth ahead of compatriot Nasr, who delivered a fantastic performance on his F1 debut. Not only did that make up for all the controversy of the preceding days, it also helped lift Sauber – who also scored through Marcus Ericsson in eighth – into third overall, behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo suffered the indignity of being lapped by the Mercedes right at the end, but at least took eight points for Red Bull after dropping back from challenging Nasr to finish sixth. Nico Hulkenberg held on for one of his trademark smooth runs to seventh, while Carlos Sainz had looked assured in that position until encountering delays at his first stop. Sainz had to be satisfied with ninth overall after being unable to resist the charge of Ericsson, shod on a set of soft tires, in the closing stages.
Sergio Perez survived a collision with Jenson Button and a slow pit stop to take 10th, thus giving the team a handy seven points.
Button was the final finisher after a run in which his detuned Honda engine left him prey to all and slowed whatever he did at the wheel. While a tough afternoon for McLaren, it did mark the MP4-30’s first race distance, albeit one that went two laps fewer than the Mercedes.
Max Verstappen, meanwhile, ran very well on his F1 debut. Belying his age, he became the youngest starter in F1 history and challenged for the top six all the way until lap 42, when his STR10 started smoking and had to be retired.
It was a disastrous race for Lotus, as Romain Grosjean joined Maldonado in retirement on the opening lap with mechanical problems. Raikkonen was also out of luck — a delay with the left rear wheel dropped him back after his first of two planned stops, and then retired him after his second stop with a problem at the same corner — the left rear tire was not properly attached.
Ferrari are under investigation for unsafe release as a result of the incident.
Mercedes looked ominous throughout the weekend, and they lead both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships as a result.
In the former, Hamilton leads Rosberg with 25 points to 18, with Vettel third and Massa fourth. In the constructors’ title race, the Silver Arrows already have an imposing lead — they sit on 43 points, with Ferrari and Sauber next up on 15 and 14 respectively.
CREDIT: Formula One