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Australian Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg wins as Fernando Alonso survives huge crash

Australian Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg wins as Fernando Alonso survives huge crash
Mar 20, 2016, 8:26 AM

Nico Rosberg won the first event of the 2016 Formula 1 season after a dramatic crash involving McLaren’s Fernando Alonso turned the Australian Gr...

Nico Rosberg won the first event of the 2016 Formula 1 season after a dramatic crash involving McLaren’s Fernando Alonso turned the Australian Grand Prix on its head.

The German driver beat his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari driver, who had led the first half of the race, completed the podium.

Australian Grand Prix

Vettel had jumped both Mercedes at the start, which was aborted at the first attempt as Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat stopped on the pit straight before reaching his grid spot, and raced into the first corner in the lead.

Behind Vettel, Rosberg forced polesitter Hamilton wide on the exit of Turn 1 and the pair made slight contact, which damaged the world champion’s front wing.

The move also cost Hamilton enough momentum that he dropped to sixth place and Kimi Raikkonen followed Vettel past Rosberg and into second place on the run down to Turn 3.

Sebastian Vettel

Through the first stint of the race Vettel pulled steadily away from Raikkonen and Rosberg as Hamilton battled past Felipe Massa to move up to fifth but the British driver was frustrated by Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso.

As a result, Mercedes elected to switch Hamilton to a one-stop strategy as it stopped Rosberg on lap 12 to jump Raikkonen using the pace advantage from the new soft tyres.

Vettel stopped a lap later for new supersofts and emerged fractionally in front of Rosberg.

Nico Rosberg

Just as the Ferrari began to pull away from the Mercedes, the race was severely disrupted as Alonso clipped the left rear of Haas F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez heading into the braking zone at Turn 3 and the Spaniard slammed into the wall before barrel rolling through the gravel trap.

The McLaren, which was destroyed in the accident, came to a rest on its roll hoop as Gutierrez spun into the gravel behind. Alonso climbed out of the car and as the two drivers embraced among the wreckage, the race was red flagged to allow the marshals to clean up the debris that was strewn across the track.

Esteban Gutierrez Fernando Alonso

The safety car led the field back into the pits where Mercedes switched Rosberg to the medium tyres and changed Hamilton’s front wing while Ferrari crucially chose to keep its drivers on supersofts.

When the race restarted after a 20-minute delay Vettel tried to scamper clear of Rosberg but could only stretch the gap to a maximum of 3.7s before he lost grip and the Mercedes driver closed in again.

Ferrari pitted Vettel again on lap 35 for soft tyres, which allowed Rosberg to run clear to the finish and claim his 15th F1 win and his fourth in succession.

Nico Rosberg

Vettel did charge up on Hamilton, who had risen to second as Raikkonen retired with flames shooting from his SF16-H’s air box and the Toro Rosso drivers and Daniel Ricciardo were forced to stop for fresh tyres.

Vettel reached the back of the world champion’s car with five laps to go but he ran wide onto the grass at Turn 15 on lap 55, which ended his challenge and brought cheers from the Melbourne crowd.

Speaking after the race, Rosberg said: "It's been a great weekend. Thank you to the team; they've done an unbelievable job getting us this incredible car. The car had been unreal today.

“To beat the Ferrari’s was great. We absolutely loved it, so I’m super excited.”

Nico Rosberg

Hamilton said: “Honestly, it was a great race. I loved the fact we had to come from far behind [and] the team did a fantastic job, as always. It was very tricky out there and obviously I’m glad that no one was injured in the shunt.

“After that it was just about trying to get through the traffic. With these tyres on, particularly when the guys in front had a faster tyre, it was just impossible to follow around here as you could see from all of us.

“But I’m really happy to get the result, it’s a great result for the team.”

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull’s Ricciardo finished fourth in front of his home fans, 24 seconds behind Rosberg, with Massa a further 35 seconds adrift in a lonely fifth place for Williams.

Haas F1’s other driver, Romain Grosjean, claimed a sensational sixth place finish on the American squad’s debut. The Frenchman gained an enormous advantage under the red flag, as he did not lose time making a pitstop and then held on to make a one-stop strategy work.

Romain Grosjean

Nico Hulkenberg, who was one of the drivers to lose out under the red flag, finished seventh for Force India, with Valtteri Bottas eighth in the second Williams.

Carlos Sainz and Verstappen rounded out the top ten for Toro Rosso but, after the pair had gamely kept Hamilton at bay in the first half of the race, the two drivers clashed in the second segment.

Verstappen was audibly frustrated by Sainz’s failure to pass Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, which he did on lap 42, and then when Sainz locked up at Turn 15 on lap 52, the Dutchman clipped his teammate’s left rear wheel and spun.

Max Verstappen

Palmer finished 11th on his F1 debut, one place in front of his teammate Kevin Magnussen, who had to recover from a first lap puncture.

Sergio Perez had been running strongly in the points before the red flag, but the Force India driver was also caught out by the red flag and he faded to 13th place by the finish with brake problems.

Jenson Button was lapped on his way to 14th in the other McLaren, just ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Pascal Werhlein, who brought up the field on his F1 debut for Manor Racing.

Australian Grand Prix

Werhlein’s teammate, Rio Haryanto, did not return to the track after the red flag and Marcus Ericsson crawled back to the pits to retire with a mechanical problem on lap 40.

Australian Grand Prix results:

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h48m15.565s

2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +8.606s

3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +9.643s

4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +34.330s

5 Felipe Massa Williams +58.979s

6 Romain Grosjean Haas +1m12.081s

7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1m14.199s

8 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1m15.153s

9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +1m15.680s

10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +1m16.833s

11 Jolyon Palmer Renault +1m23.399s

12 Kevin Magnussen Renault +1m25.606s

13 Sergio Perez Force India +1m31.699s

14 Jenson Button McLaren +1 Lap

15 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 Lap

16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +1 Lap

- Marcus Ericsson Sauber Retired

- Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Retired

- Rio Haryanto Manor Retired

- Fernando Alonso McLaren Collision

- Esteban Gutierrez Haas Collision

- Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Did not start

What did you make of the Australian Grand Prix? Which was the standout moment of the race? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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