Rosberg beats Hamilton after huge Alonso crash

© XPB 

Nico Rosberg started the new season with a victory in the Australian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton holding off Sebastian Vettel for second place.

Vettel had led for much of the race but didn't have the pace on supersoft tyres to pull away from Rosberg and a late pit stop for soft tyres saw him close in on Hamilton but fail to pass the second Mercedes.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of Felipe Massa and an incredible sixth place on debut for Haas courtesy of Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman stopped just once - under a red flag - and ran to the end on medium tyres to finish ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and the fighting Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.

After an aborted start, Vettel took the lead off the line as Hamilton dropped back through the field. Vettel was leading team-mate Kimi Raikkonen before a huge crash for Alonso saw the race stopped after 18 laps.

Alonso was attacking Esteban Gutierrez and using DRS approaching the braking point for Turn 3 when the McLaren clipped the rear of the Haas, breaking its front right suspension. Alonso was then a passenger as his car hit the outside wall at high speed, dug in to the gravel trap and was sent somersaulting in to the barrier.

Amazingly, Alonso climbed out of the car and appeared to only be shaken by the incident but without injury. Gutierrez's car was less heavily damaged and he too was uninjured.

The race was red flagged for 20 minutes, allowing drivers to change tyres. It was a crucial time in the race as Rosberg opted for mediums - something Hamilton had already done - while Vettel remained on supersofts at the head of the field.

Vettel was then unable to pull away sufficiently from Rosberg and was actually dropping back in the clutches of the Mercedes when he had to pit for soft tyres to run to the end of the race. Vettel quickly climbed back up to third place and hunted down Hamilton, but the triple world champion defended excellently and Vettel ran wide at the penultimate corner with two laps to go to end his hopes.

Rosberg made serene progress at the front to win by 8s from Hamilton, with Vettel a further 1.5s back. Rosberg saw any threat from Raikkonen disappear shortly after the red flag. The Finn had been running second in the opening stint but dropped behind Rosberg during the first pit stops - before the red flag - and then retired with a turbo failure.

Ricciardo was another driver to profit from the red flag as he rose to second place for a spell before Hamilton passed him. Ricciardo then put on supersoft tyres for the final stint to get the better of Massa, but was a distant fourth at the flag.

Grosjean had been climbing through the field before the red flag, and ironically profited from the incident involving his team-mate Gutierrez. Haas then swapped him to medium tyres as it could use the red flag as a free pit stop, and Grosjean held on to sixth ahead of Hulkenberg and Bottas with relative ease.

Verstappen made a strong start to run fourth in the first stint ahead of Hamilton, but he was hurt by a slow pit stop from Toro Rosso after the red flag. The Dutchman was dropped behind team-mate Sainz as a result and the pair continued to scrap as they fought past Jolyon Palmer's Renault before coming up behind the train of Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

All five were on the medium tyre which saw no overtaking take place, but Verstappen got frustrated at the back of the queue, spinning at the penultimate corner after running in to the left rear corner of his team-mate's car.

Palmer came home 11th after a good defensive drive which ultimately yielded no points for Renault on its return to F1 as a constructor, with team-mate Kevin Magnussen 2.2s behind him in 12th. Jenson Button faded for McLaren to finish a lap down in 13th, while Pascal Wehrlein was last of the runners in 16th place - also a lap down - as Manor team-mate Rio Haryanto retired during the red flag period.

AS IT HAPPENED: 2016 Australian Grand Prix 

2016 F1 season: Team-by-team preview

Pos Driver Team Gap Stops
01 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 57 laps - 1h48m15.565s 2
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +8.060 2
03 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +9.643 3
04 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +24.330 3
05 Felipe Massa Williams +58.989 2
06 Romain Grosjean Haas +72.081 1
07 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +74.199 2
08 Valtteri Bottas Williams +75.153 2
09 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +75.680 3
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +76.833 3
11 Jolyon Palmier Renault +83.399 2
12 Kevin Magnussen Renault +85.606 3
13 Sergio Perez Force India +91.699 2
14 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap 3
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 lap 2
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +1 lap 3
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber DNF 4
18 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari DNF 3
19 Rio Haryanto Manor DNF 2
20 Esteban Gutierrez Haas DNF 0
21 Fernando Alonso McLaren DNF 1
22 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull DNS 0