“I think the racing is going to get better, I think this is a good start to the 2014 season for Formula One, as a whole.” Jenson Button said on Sunday night after a frenetic opening, in which both the favorite Lewis Hamilton and the reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel, both retired with engine trouble. However Nico Rosberg proved that Mercedes are the class of the field in the early stages of the new Formula One world championship with a runaway victory in the Australian Grand Prix.
It was a memorable race for McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, who was promoted to second place after home hero and Red Bull debutant Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for exceeding the maximum allowed fuel flow. Daniel Ricciardo, was disqualified after the race finished after the Red Bull team had repeatedly ignored the FIA’s warnings about an infringement concerning fuel flow-rate.
It means that McLaren are leading the 2014 championship. “It’s nothing to do with me,” said Ron Dennis, “I was just here to watch. It was a good podium for a great young driver.”
There was also a magnificent drive from the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, he clawed his way up the field to sixth before making an unforced error and hitting the wall in which he dropped back to 16th after coming in to replace his lost tyre but then pushed up to sixth as the checkered flag fell.
However the day belonged to Rosberg and Mercedes. The German started in third place but after darting through on the inside of Hamilton he never looked back and pulled away steadily from the rest of the team.
The race itself got off to a chaotic start on the first corner when Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi crashed out and took the much fancied Willliam’s of Felipe Massa with him. But soon there were bigger casualties taking their leave of the race. Hamilton managed just one completed lap before he was hit by a power shortage because of a misfiring cylinder and was forced to retire.
Hamilton said later: “We knew reliability could be an issue but of course it surprises you when it happens, but it’s early stages and there’s a long way to go so I will remain positive and focus on the next race. I felt like I didn’t have power. I kept going as long as I could, but there was no point. As soon as I left the lane I had a lot less power than I usually have. They asked me to come in, but I said ‘no, no, I can keep going’, but I then had to come in. I think of all the work that has gone in from the guys in the factory and all the days and nights stressing. We looked so strong but to then have a hiccup is tough for everyone, but we will bounce back.”
Soon after Hamilton’s retirement Vettel followed suit, the champion of the last four years retired due to a mechanical problem. The retirements meant both Rosberg and Ricciardo rocketed to the forefront of race contention, having qualified in third and second positions respectively.
Rosberg had built up a 14-second lead after 32 laps and, even with a pit-stop still to make on Ricciardo, extended that to more than 16 seconds by the 43rd lap. Ultimately, Rosberg finished 24 seconds ahead of the Australian, in a formidable title warning of the capabilities of Mercedes’ W05 car to the rest of the chasing pack.
“Brilliant guys. What a car you gave me, what a car,” an elated Rosberg bellowed over Mercedes team radio.
Race winner Rosberg praised his Mercedes team, saying the Melbourne win would lay the foundations for a real tilt at the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
“It has been an amazing time in Melbourne. The support has been fantastic, Daniel got more support than me, but that’s normal,” he said.
“It has been an amazing day. Everyone has worked so hard over the weather and to have such an amazing [W05] Silver Arrow is unbelievable.
“The reliability was good and it’s the perfect start to the season.”
Final classification: 1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1hr 32mins 58.710secs, 2 Kevin Magnussen (Den) McLaren 1:33:25.487, 3 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:33:28.737, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:33:33.994, 5 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:33:46.349, 6 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India 1:33:49.428, 7 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:33:56.385, 8 Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33:59.151, 9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:34:02.295, 10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:34:24.626, 11 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 12 Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 13 Max Chilton (Gbr) Marussia at 2 Laps
Not Classified: 14 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull (disqualified) 15 Jules Bianchi (Fra) Marussia 51 Laps completed, 16 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus F1 Team 44 Laps completed, 17 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Lotus F1 Team 30 Laps completed, 18 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Caterham 28 Laps completed, 19 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 4 Laps completed, 20 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 3 Laps completed, 21 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 0 Laps completed, 22 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Caterham 0 Laps completed
World Championship Standings after Australian Grand Prix:
Drivers: 1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 25pts, 2 Kevin Magnussen (Den) McLaren 18, 3 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 15, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 12, 5 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 10, 6 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India 8, 7 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 6, 8 Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 4, 9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 2, 10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:34:24.626 1
Constructors: McLaren 33, Mercedes 25, Ferrari 18, Williams 10, Force India 9, Toro Rosso 6
Images: Mark Eldridge Photography