Nico Rosberg has won an action-packed 2016 Australian Grand Prix, leading home his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third.
The start of the new Formula 1 season was delayed by two minutes, as Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat broke down just 25 metres away from his grid slot. This led to an aborted start where the drivers had to complete an extra formation lap.
Both Ferraris capitalised on the slow starting Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Rosberg, who had locked out the front row of the grid. Vettel had a perfect start and launched himself between Hamilton and Rosberg to take the lead, while Kimi Räikkönen got the job done after Turn 1 to make it a Ferrari one-two.
Hamilton fell back to sixth after the first lap while Rosberg remained third. The reigning World Champion was on his way back to the sharp end of the field when he came up to Max Verstappen in the Toro Rosso.
The Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso, along with Verstappen’s incredible defending, left Hamilton with nowhere to go and eventually was let through once Verstappen pitted on Lap 14.
The race was red-flagged just three laps later when Fernando Alonso ran into the left rear of Haas’ Esteban Gutiérrez, sending the McLaren into the wall and onwards to the gravel trap, where he was launched almost 40 metres in the air.
The Spaniard came to a wrecking halt after he hit the gravel again then ploughed straight into the barrier. Luckily Alonso was quick to get out of the car unhurt, although clearly shaken from the terrifying incident. His MP4-31 was a complete write-off.
The cars returned to the pits where the race was suspended for 15 minutes, drivers were allowed to change tyres under the new red flag rules. Unfortunately for debutant Rio Haryanto, Manor Racing were unable to fix the gremlins in the Indonesian’s car and he didn’t rejoin the race for the restart.
The new Haas F1 Team took full advantage of the stoppage and put a new pair of Medium tyres on Romain Grosjean’s car – effectively giving the Frenchman a free pit stop as he hadn’t yet pitted – which helped him bring home points for the new American team on their debut race.
It was a strategy adopted by a number of other runners – most of whom hadn’t even run the Medium tyres in the rain-affected practice sessions – who hoped to get through to the chequered flag without having to stop again.
Curiously, neither Vettel (who swapped to another set of Super Softs) and Ricciardo (who took on Softs) took this option – both hoped they could eke out enough of an advantage over their rivals who were shod with a much slower tyre.
Mercedes was wise to Vettel’s tactic and had second-placed Rosberg peg the gap to his countryman, ensuring that the Ferrari driver would pit for a second time and rejoin in third place behind Rosberg and Hamilton after switching to Soft tyres for his final stint. He managed to close up to within DRS range of Hamilton in the final stages of the race, but outbraked himself at Turn 15 and threw away a slim chance of snatching second place in the final two laps of the race.
Rosberg was left to cruise to victory by over eight seconds from Hamilton to continue his unbroken run of wins to four; Hamilton’s recovery drive to second place was good given his dreadful launch off the line 57 laps earlier, while Vettel was a circumspect third in the sole Ferrari.
His solitary run was due to the sudden retirement of teammate Kimi Räikkönen, who entered the pit lane on Lap 23 with a smokey engine due to troubles with his turbo; once he stopped at his pits the airbox caught fire and his race was done.
The battle between the Toro Rosso drivers lasted almost half the race and almost came to a catastrophic end. Verstappen attempted to pass his teammate Carlos Sainz at the penultimate corner, but the teenager only succeeded in clipping Sainz’s rear and spun himself. The Dutch youngster then charged back to the battle with his teammate and finished a second behind in tenth position.
Renault’s return to Formula 1 was quite successful, with Jolyon Palmer impressing on debut finishing just outside of the points in eleventh place. His teammate Kevin Magnussen recovered from a puncture on the opening lap to finish two seconds behind in twelfth.
Palmer showed he hadn’t lost any of his race craft after a year as a reserve driver, as the 2014 GP2 Series champion engaged in a brilliant battle with the Toro Rosso youngsters for ninth, although he was unable to keep them behind as both Sainz and Verstappen passed him on Lap 42.
Nico Hülkenberg finished in seventh position for Force India, while Sergio Pérez struggled towards the end of the race with front brake wear and ended the race thirteenth ahead of an off-the-pace Jenson Button in his McLaren and Felipe Nasr’s Sauber.
After running as high as twelfth in the opening laps thanks to a brilliant start, Pascal Wehrlein slipped down the field and was last of the classified finishers in his first Formula 1 race driving for Manor Racing. Marcus Ericsson was the last of the retirees when his Sauber limped back to the pits on Lap 39 due with technical problems.
|2016 FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (57 LAPS*)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W07 Hybrid||57||1:48:15.575|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W07 Hybrid||57||+ 8.060|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF-16||57||+ 9.643|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB12||57||+ 24.330|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38||57||+ 58.979|
|6.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-16||57||+ 1:12.081|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09||57||+ 1:14.199|
|8.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38||57||+ 1:15.153|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11||57||+ 1:15.680|
|10.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11||57||+ 1:16.833|
|11.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS16||57||+ 1:23.399|
|12.||Kevin Magnussen||Renault Sport F1 Team RS16||57||+ 1:25.606|
|13.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09||57||+ 1:31.699|
|14.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-31||56||1 lap behind|
|15.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35||56||1 lap behind|
|16.||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5||56||1 lap behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35||38||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF-16||21||Turbo|
|DNF.||Rio Haryanto||Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5||17||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-16||16||Collision|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-31||16||Collision|
|DNS.||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB12||Electrical|
* Race distanced reduced to 57 of its scheduled 58 laps due to Daniil Kvyat’s car becoming stranded en route to the dummy grid.
Images via George Hitchens Photography