Photo Credit: MercedesAMGF1.com
MELBOURNE, Australia — When we look back in the future to the beginning of the Turbo V6 era of Formula One, we will look back to see Nico Rosberg standing tall as the winner of its first race.
Rosberg dominated the Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday, leading from start-to-conclusion in a brilliant drive that resulted in a commanding 26.777 second lead over second place by race end.
“That was an incredible day for us,” Rosberg said. “To start the season with a win is unbelievable and I have to say a big thank you to everybody who was involved in building our car over the winter.”
The win is Rosberg’s fourth career grand prix victory and is the Mercedes AMG Petronas team’s first ever victory in Australia. Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton kicked off the season making history for Mercedes’ engine department as Hamilton provided the engine supplier with their 100th pole position while Rosberg earned the 100th victory for a Mercedes-powered car.
Reliability was the main issue on every team’s mind heading into Melbourne. While Mercedes-affiliated cars were strong throughout preseason testing in Jerez and Bahrain, they were proven to not be invincible as Hamilton retired his works-team vehicle with engine issues after completing two laps. Hamilton maintained a calm outlook on the rest of the season after climbing out of his Mercedes F1 W05.
“I did everything I could; everything right,” he said. “I couldn’t have done anything better. It is what it is. The real positive thing is the car is fantastic and we have a long way to go.”
Renault-powered cars endured a disastrous winter of testing. Four-time defending Constructors’ Champions, Infiniti Red Bull Racing, completed a total of 1705.76 kilometers across all 12 days of testing, a tally that was the ninth highest out of 11 teams that reported for testing. Caterham led the Renaults throughout testing with 3313.13 kilometers completed, this figure was still lacking behind the competition as Caterham completed the seventh-most laps out of all teams.
Sunday was a continuance of Renault’s woes; of the eight entrants using engines from the French manufacturer, only the two Toro Rossos of Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat officially finished the race.
Daniel Ricciardo made headlines after qualifying second for Red Bull in his home country. A stellar drive that would have given the Perth native his maiden podium was tainted by excessive amounts of fuel flowing to the engine of his Red Bull RB10, an infraction that led to his disqualification by the FIA. Teammate and four-time World Driver Champion, Sebastian Vettel, retired from the race after completing three laps with power issues plaguing his car from the parade lap.
After going for the entire year of 2013 without scoring a single podium, McLaren snagged themselves two earlier today. Rookie Kevin Magnussen and three-time Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button were promoted to second and third, respectively, by virtue of Ricciardo’s disqualification. Magnussen voiced his pleasure over his strong performance in his debut Formula 1 race.
“I just can’t believe it,” the rookie said. “It is not a win but feels a bit like a win. The team is coming off a difficult season and they really wanted to come back. And working with a rookie as well who hasn’t got experience … it’s been tough for them, for sure, but they’ve done such a good job, made me feel really at home and made me feel comfortable with everything. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Scuderia Ferrari’s duo of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen both turned in respectable performances in Melbourne; Alonso brought his car home in fourth while Räikkönen finished seventh. Despite the accomplishment of having both cars finish in the points, Alonso still believes that there is work to be done for the Italian team.
“We learned a lot but even if we are happy to finish and get these points, we are not happy with the gap to Rosberg and we need to improve.” Alonso then expressed his optimism towards the rest of the season. “It is just the first race of the championship, no one can say who will win the championship after just the first race or who will lose it.”
Six of the top-10 finishers were powered by Mercedes engines. Force India teammates Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez finished sixth and 10th, respectively. Valtteri Bottas finished fifth for Williams-Martini Racing.
Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was caught up in a first corner incident on the first lap where Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi had a brake failure heading into the hard right-hander and plowed into the back of Massa’s No. 19 car. Massa called for a one-race ban on Kobayashi, however, the FIA issued no such penalty towards the returning Kobayashi.
As the new Formula One season heads to Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks, Rosberg currently holds a seven point lead over Magnussen in the Drivers’ standings. The absence of Hamilton finishing in a points position renders Mercedes to second in the Constructors’ standings behind McLaren; the works team trails McLaren by eight points heading into Malaysia.
Drivers’ Championship Standings after Round 1 of 19
- GER – Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 25 | Leader
- DEN – Kevin Magnussen – McLaren – 18 | -7
- GBR – Jenson Button – McLaren – 15 | -10
- ESP – Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 12 | -13
- FIN – Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 10 | -15
- GER – Nico Hülkenberg – Force India – 8 | -17
- FIN – Kimi Räikkönen – Ferrari – 6 | -19
- FRA – Jean-Éric Vergne – Toro Rosso – 4 | -21
- RUS – Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 2 | -23
- MEX – Sergio Perez – Force India – 1 | -24
Constructors’ Championship Standings after Round 1 of 19
- GBR – McLaren-Mercedes – 33 | Leader
- GER – Mercedes – 25 | -8
- ITA – Ferrari – 18 | -15
- GBR – Williams-Mercedes – 10 | -23
- IND – Force India-Mercedes – 9 | -24
- ITA – Toro Rosso-Renault – 6 | -27