2014 World Champion Lewis Hamilton continued in 2015 where he left off last year after he led from start to finish to win the Australian Grand Prix.
The Briton started his title defence in the best possible manner, leading a Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS one-two ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg, with the duo never more than two seconds apart throughout the fifty-eight lap race.
Only fifteen drivers took to the start for the season opener. After neither Manor F1 Team driver qualified on Saturday, but we would then lose Williams Martini Racing’s Valtteri Bottas through the back injury he suffered during qualifying.
We then saw two drivers – McLaren-Honda’s Kevin Magnussen and Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat – both stopped on track on the way to the dummy grid, the Dane with an apparent engine failure and the Russian with transmission issues.
The start saw Pastor Maldonado’s race end, when he was the innocent victim of a chain reaction caused by the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen touching that saw Felipe Nasr’s Sauber pushed into the rear wheel of Maldonado’s Lotus, pitching him into a spin into the outside wall of turn two. This saw the introduction of the safety car for the first time in 2015, and it stayed on track until the start of lap four.
The race for the other Lotus of Romain Grosjean was over by the end of the first lap as well, with the Frenchman crawling around with a mechanical issue, ending up with him being pushed into the pit garage and into retirement.
The sole Williams of Felipe Massa held onto third place at the start and through the restart, but was unable to stay ahead of Vettel through the one and only pit stop window, when the Brazilian got stuck behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull and allowed the German to jump ahead when he made his own pit stop three laps later than Massa. Vettel thus was able to complete the podium on his Ferrari debut, with Massa a few seconds back in fourth.
Nasr had a mighty Formula 1 debut for Sauber to finish fifth, with the team putting all their troubles from the weekend with the court case with Giedo van der Garde behind them to secure a double-points finish in Australia, after Marcus Ericsson finished eighth. It was also the team’s first points since the 2013 season after going through 2014 without a top ten finish.
Ricciardo struggled to sixth in his Red Bull, complaining of driveability issues throughout the race, and was the classified driver to be lapped. He finished ahead of the Sahara Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, who drove a quiet race to seventh.
Ericsson took eighth after a late-race pass on the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr, who was struggling with tyre wear after a long stint on the Medium Pirelli tyres. Sainz had been running inside the top seven before his pit stop, but a problem with the left rear tyre cost him valuable time and put him in the position to be under threat from those behind him at the end of the race.
Sergio Perez made it two Force India’s in the top ten in tenth, despite an early trip through the gravel trap and then a spin while attempting to pass the McLaren of Jenson Button on lap fourteen. Button was the last classified finisher, completing his first race distance in the MP4/30 despite being two laps down and running with a detuned Honda power unit.
Raikkonen was on course for a top five finish and was trying an alternative two-stop strategy when disaster struck during his second pit stop, when he was allowed to leave the pits before his left rear tyre was attached properly. He was told to pull over, and is under investigation for an unsafe release, which will possibly mean a grid penalty for the race in Malaysia in two weeks time.
Another driver who was on course for points was Max Verstappen, who belied his age and put in a strong rookie performance in the second Toro Rosso before being forced to pull off the road just after his pit stop with smoke pouring from his Renault power unit. The seventeen-year-old Dutchman had showed good pace and was on course to become the youngest points scorer in F1 history before his troubles.
As thus, only eleven drivers finished, but for Lewis Hamilton, the season could not have started any better. For the rivals to Mercedes, the signs are ominous for another year of domination from the Mercedes team.
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