Lewis Hamilton got his drivers’ championship defence off to the perfect start with victory in the Australian Grand Prix.
Starting from pole, Hamilton led in to Turn 1 and only relinquished the lead briefly having taken his pit stop one lap before team-mate Nico Rosberg. While never more than 3.5s behind the leader, Rosberg never seriously threatened Hamilton who always had a response when his team-mate attempted to close the gap.
Sebastian Vettel finished third on his debut for Ferrari after a strong strategy saw him run three laps longer than Felipe Massa - who had held third place since the start - and jump the Williams in the pits. Massa was unable to close within two seconds of the Ferrari from that point and had to settle for fourth place.
Massa was the lone Williams in a race which had just 15 starters following a number of withdrawals on Sunday. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas was unable to recover from a back injury sustained during qualifying and was ruled out of the race when he failed to pass the FIA medical tests.
Also failing to start the race were Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat, with car failures seeing both drivers stop on their way to the grid. Magnussen was halted by a power unit issue, while it was a gearbox problem to blame at Red Bull.
However, the drop-outs had little to do with Felipe Nasr’s hugely impressive fifth place on debut for Sauber. The Brazilian was aggressive at the start - and perhaps lucky not to sustain damage in contact with Pastor Maldonado which saw the Lotus crash out - but held fifth from the first lap and was able to withstand the attentions of Daniel Ricciardo in the final stint.
Nasr’s contact with Maldonado saw the safety car deployed on the opening lap. With Kimi Raikkonen running slightly wide at Turn 1, Nasr attempted to pass the Ferrari but had Maldonado on his outside and as Raikkonen moved back on to the track Nasr tapped the left rear of the Lotus, with Maldonado ending up in the barrier. It was part of a nightmare first lap for Lotus as Romain Grosjean was also forced to retire after starting slowly.
Raikkonen was caught behind Nasr and Ricciardo for a spell but had appeared to have jumped both cars with a two-stop strategy. However, his final stop saw the car released before the left rear wheel was attached properly and he was forced to retire the SF15-T.
Ricciardo slowed in the final laps but still finished sixth, although Red Bull’s lack of pace was highlighted by the fact that he was lapped by Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg came home seventh for Lotus ahead of Marcus Ericsson - who overtook Carlos Sainz Jr with a strong move in to Turn 12 with just three laps remaining.
Sainz Jr’s race was compromised by a very slow pit stop which saw Toro Rosso scrabbling to try and remove his left rear tyre, using three different wheel guns to finally get the job done.
Sergio Perez took the final point in tenth place after an eventful battle with Jenson Button in the middle part of the race. Button held off Perez through the high-speed Turn 10 and 11 sequence, before the Force India crashed in to the side of the McLaren at Turn 3. Both cars continued without damage and Perez eventually finished almost 40s clear of Button, but it was a triumph for the McLaren just to finish the race, albeit two laps down.
Click here for the full gallery from the Australian Grand Prix
|01||L. Hamilton||Mercedes||58 laps - 1:31:54.067s||1|
|06||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull||+1 lap||1|
|07||N. Hulkenberg||Force India||+1 lap||2|
|08||M. Ericsson||Sauber||+1 lap||3|
|09||C. Sainz||Toro Rosso||+1 lap||1|
|10||S. Perez||Force India||+1 lap||1|
|11||J. Button||McLaren||+2 laps||1|
|13||M. Verstappen||Toro Rosso||DNF||1|
|16||D. Kvyat||Red Bull||DNS||0|