Nico Rosberg couldn’t have asked for a better start to the new season. The German in his Mercedes had a flawless drive to the chequered flag after his teammate and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton had retired in the early part of the race. The British driver went out of the race similar to his fate in free practice with an engine problem. While the Mercedes proved the best team all winter and during the weekend, it was evident that even they have things to ponder upon.
The race was shortened by a lap as Jules Bianchi’s Marussia stalled at the start similar to his teammate Max Chilton who had earlier stalled his car on the grid formation lap. It was a dash to move ahead as the lights went out and the race was marked by an incident at the very first corner. Kamui Kobayashi in the Caterham, made a brilliant start but braked too late, locking up his tyres and taking out Felipe Massa’s Williams as they headed into turn one. Kobayashi admitted to his mistake but was later cleared by the stewards.
Rosberg moved into a comfortable lead followed by Ricciardo. There were quite a few battles behind the front runners with Jenson Button, Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen all fighting to move ahead in the order. There was more drama in the race as the Safety Car was called out after the Williams of Bottas hit the wall on Turn 10 leaving debris (tyre and rim) on track and limped back to the pits for a replacement.
Once the safety car was out, the order began to change in the top-10 and the drivers went in for their second and third round of pit-stops having pitted after the Williams incident. Most of them opted for a soft compound during the second stop and a medium one for the final stop. The top-3 remained intact at the end of the race but the remaining order shuffled a bit. Button moved into fourth with some smart work from the McLaren pit crew followed by Alonso who had moved into fifth after he had passed Hulkenberg in the Force India, thanks to the Ferrari crew during the pit stop.
Bottas was all charged up as he moved ahead of countryman Kimi Raikkonen and finished with a brilliant 6th place. There was reason for Toro-Rosso to celebrate as both their drivers, Jean Eric-Vergne and Daniil Kvyat, finished in the top-10 with the 19-year old getting a lot of appreciation for a brilliant finish (in points) in the very first race of his Formula One career. He became the youngest point scorer in the sport’s history overtaking Sebastian Vettel. Sergio Perez wasn’t as comfortable in the Force India as his teammate but managed to stay ahead of the struggling Sauber duo of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.
Rookie Kevin Magnussen was one of the talking points of the race as he finished on the podium in his very first race for McLaren. His drive for the under-performing Mclaren of 2013 was nothing short of exceptional. Even though the MP4-29 is behind in pace when compared to Mercedes, the Dane was consistent during testing, during the weekend and in the race and reaped rich dividends in the end.
Red-Bull – the best team for quite a few seasons now – had quite a roller-coaster weekend. Sebastian Vettel never looked comfortable in the RBR10 while young teammate Daniel Ricciardo was clearly the faster among the two drivers. And race-day was no different for the Australian home boy who hung on to a second place after a brilliant drive and was cheered to a huge roar by the crowd as he crossed the finish line (becoming the first Australian driver to be on the podium at home).
But drama unfolded after the race as Ricciardo was disqualified for breaking the fuel flow rate limit. Red-Bull, however, have filed an appeal against the ruling by the stewards, but the hearing will take some time (most likely in April). Despite all the drama, Red-Bull seem to have made remarkable improvement since testing. But they still do have plenty of problems to look at heading into the next race.
The first race was a clear indicator that reliability would be the key for the season which has seen significant changes in the rules and regulations. There were 5 retirements during the race including Hamilton and Vettel with the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado going with out with ERS issues. The race result wasn’t a surprise at all after the Enstone team had a torrid time during winter testing and over the weekend with frequent troubles with the powertrain and the new energy system. Marcus Ericcson in the Caterham retired on lap 27 with an oil pressure issue.
The first race of the new Formula One season was indeed a humdinger. The next race promises to be another nail-biter and more drama and action is expected in Sepang in 10 days time.
Order at the end of the Australian GP.
1. Nico Rosberg
2. Kevin Magnussen
3. Jenson Button
4. Fernando Alonso
5. Valtteri Bottas
6. Nico Hulkenberg
7. Kimi Räikkönen
8. Jean-Eric Vergne
9. Daniil Kvyat
10. Sergio Perez
11. Adrian Sutil
12. Esteban Gutierrez
13. Max Chilton
14. Jules Bianchi
15. Romain Grosjean - Retired due to ERS problem
16. Pastor Maldonado - Retired due to ERS problem
17. Marcus Ericsson – Retired due to Oil Pressure problem
18. Sebastian Vettel – Retired due to Power Unit problem
19. Lewis Hamilton – Retired due to Engine Problem
20. Felipe Massa - Retired due to Collision
21. Kamui Kobayashi – Retired due to Collision
22. Daniel Ricciardo – Disqualified due to a fuel flow violation