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.”

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders