Nico Rosberg made the most of Ferrari’s strategy blunder to win the Australian GP, a race that was red flagged when Fernando Alonso suffered a horror crash.
Ferrari made a perfect start to Sunday’s 57-lap Australian GP – the race reduced by a lap after an electrical problem caused Daniil Kvyat to stop on the pit straight. Sebastian Vettel split the Mercedes pairing to shoot up into first place while Kimi Raikkonen also got ahead to make it a Ferrari 1-2.
It was a position they would hold through to the first round of pit stops where Rosberg got the jump on the Finn. The Mercedes driver opted for the soft tyres compared to Ferrari with the super-soft.
Their battle was halted when the race was red-flagged after 18 laps when Fernando Alonso clipped the left rear of Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas at speed.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 20, 2016
Alonso slammed into the wall side-on before hurtling at pace into the gravel trap at Turn 3 where his McLaren flipped not once but twice. Alonso climbed unaided from his car but was visibly shaken while Gutierrez immediately ran over to check on the Spaniard.
With debris spewed all over the circuit, Race Control opted to red flag the race giving the marshals time to clear the track. Alonso’s McLaren was trashed!
The race resumed at 16:55 local time with varying tyre decisions at the front. Vettel and Raikkonen opted to remain on the super-softs while Rosberg joined Hamilton on the mediums. That meant neither Mercedes driver would need to pit again but both Ferraris would have to even though they could have changed tyres in the pits.
The race restarted behind the Safety Car sans Rio Haryanto, who parked his Manor with a driveline problem while laps after the restart Raikkonen pulled into the pits with flames coming out of his SF16-H’s airbox due to an engine failure.
Vettel held onto the lead through to lap 36 when he finally had to pit, swapping his super-softs for softs. He came out P4, 23 seconds behind new race leader Rosberg. That became P3 when Ricciardo pitted from second which also moved Hamilton up to P2 behind his team-mate.
With 10 laps remaining it was Rosberg ahead by 8.5s seconds over Hamilton, who in turn was 3.2 ahead of Vettel. But despite both chasers closing the gap neither was able to make any inroads and Rosberg took the chequered flag to claim his second Australian GP win. Hamilton was second ahead of Vettel, who had a late off on the penultimate lap that cost him distance but not position.
Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a late pit stop to finish fourth ahead of Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean. It was an incredible result for the Frenchman and the new Haas team.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of Valtteri Bottas while Carlos Sainz was P9 ahead of Max Verstappen. The Dutchman spent several laps complaining to Toro Rosso about his team-mate. Verstappen was unhappy that Sainz was pitted ahead of him – “I wanted to pit first” – and even more unhappy that Toro Rosso did not order the Spaniard to move over for him. He eventually clipped his team-mate on lap 54 which put him into a spin. He lost ground but not position.
Jolyon Palmer narrowly missed out on the points in his debut race as he finished P11.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:48:15.565
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +8.606
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +9.643
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +34.330
5 Felipe Massa Williams +58.979
6 Romain Grosjean Haas +1:12.081
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1:14.199
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1:15.153
9 Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +1:15.680
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +1:16.833
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault +1:23.399
12 Kevin Magnussen Renault +1:25.606
13 Sergio Perez Force India +1:31.699
14 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 lap
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +1 lap
Did Not Finish
Marcus Ericsson Sauber 38 laps
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 21 laps
Rio Haryanto Manor 17 laps
Fernando Alonso McLaren 16 laps
Esteban Gutierrez Haas 16 laps
Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 0 laps