Australian Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg ‘silver arrow’ flies for Mercedes but Lewis Hamilton stalls

German car’s speed confirmed by victory in opening GP as Red Bull’s revival is ruined by disqualification for Ricciardo

albert park

Mercedes had given their star drivers permission to race each other in the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, but unfortunately that proved academic when an early engine failure for Lewis Hamilton in pole position left Nico Rosberg with a cakewalk to victory over Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The first race of Formula One’s new era was marred by controversy five hours later when Ricciardo and his car were excluded for consistently exceeding the maximum fuel-flow allowance of 100kg per hour. The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, insisted they had complied with the regulations and claimed that the fuel sensors have caused problems since their introduction.

“I’m extremely disappointed, quite surprised and we will of course appeal,” said Horner. “Hopefully, through the appeal process it will be clear the car has conformed at all times with the regulations and we have complied with technical regulations.”

The first attempt to start the race here in Melbourne had to be aborted when Jules Bianchi’s Marussia failed to get away. Then, as Hamilton’s car got bogged down at the start and Rosberg grabbed the lead from Ricciardo and the McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, there was further drama.

Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham made a getaway but hit Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and then crashed heavily into the back of the Williams of Felipe Massa after its rear brakes failed. Massa and Kobayashi were instant retirements and they were soon followed by Hamilton and world champion Sebastian Vettel, whose Red Bull had been in trouble on the grid formation lap with failing turbocharger boost pressure.

“My start didn’t feel great today and I had a lot less power than usual when pulling away,” Hamilton said, “so it was obvious immediately that something was wrong.

Kamui Kobayashi veers off the track (GETTY) Kamui Kobayashi veers off the track (GETTY) “It looks like we only had five cylinders firing and, while I wanted to keep going, we had to play safe and save the engine. It’s unfortunate but that’s racing. Of course I’m disappointed and, when I think about all the work that has gone on back at our factories, it’s tough to have a costly hiccup.”

There was plenty more action in the opening laps as Rosberg headed Ricciardo, Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and the Toro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.

Bottas was the man on the move for Williams. He passed fellow Finn Raikkonen with a daring switch round the outside on the eighth lap, but hit a wall on the 10th, damaging his right rear tyre. As he pitted for a replacement, the safety car was deployed so that a chunk of his wheel rim could be removed from the track.

McLaren reacted very quickly and called Jenson Button in, enabling him to jump from ninth place to sixth.

Rosberg lost no time pulling away again from Ricciardo when the race resumed on the 16th lap, and controlled things easily from the front with few worries about fuel conservation. His one concern came in the middle of the race when the front tyres began graining and losing grip, but by staying out he was able to drive through that and rebuild his momentum. By the finish he was a supremely comfortable 24.5 seconds ahead.

“At the start I was off like a bullet – or a silver arrow,” Rosberg said. “After that the car was really, really quick today. We’ve got a really good engine and not much of a problem with fuel consumption, so there were no worries about that. It all went perfectly.”

Red Bull’s astonishing turnaround, which had transformed their troubled car into a podium contender, enabled Ricciardo to maintain a comfortable second place throughout the race, but towards the end the impressive Magnussen kept him honest and finished 2.2sec behind.

“If I looked back to where we were three weeks ago I would have bet everything I had that we wouldn’t be standing here,” Ricciardo said through his trademark Colgate smile, which would soon be wiped from his face. “We’d never done a race distance until today, so we didn’t have a lot of confidence. We’ve really clawed back a massive margin. It’s overwhelming, an unbelievable day.”

While Ricciardo celebrated his apparent status as the first Australian ever to finish on the podium in his home grand prix, Magnussen was delighted to finish third in a debut reminiscent of Hamilton’s for McLaren back in 2007, and to deliver the podium that had eluded the team throughout last year.

“It’s hard to believe, so surreal,” he said. “The car was so much better than it’s ever been, and we just kept moving up. I had exactly what I needed all race. It’s not a win, but it definitely feels like it.”

Button’s second pit stop was as slick as his first, and enabled him to pass Hulkenberg and Alonso to take fourth. As a result McLaren lead the constructors’ championship by two points from Mercedes, with Ferrari third.

“It’s been a long time since we were leading a constructors’ championship,” Button said, referring to China in 2012. “It’s a really good feeling. You always want more but this is a good starting point and we have some improvements for Malaysia.”

Once Ricciardo’s car had been excluded, McLaren found themselves eight points ahead of Mercedes instead of just two, as Magnussen moved up to second and Button third.

Alonso admitted Ferrari were “not happy” with their performance after coming fifth, with the Spaniard finishing 35sec behind Rosberg. “We need to improve,” said the Spaniard, who has been runner-up in three of the last four World Championships.

“We learnt a lot but even if we are happy to finish and get these points, we are not happy with the gap to Rosberg and we need to improve.”

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits