Rosberg takes victory at Australian GP

By on Sunday, March 20, 2016
Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Nico Rosberg led a Mercedes 1-2 at an action-packed Australian Grand Prix, as the race was turned on its head following a red flag period.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel controlled the early stages but lost out on strategy when the race was halted after a terrifying accident involving Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutiérrez.

Vettel surged into the lead at the start as both Mercedes drivers bogged down, as Kimi Räikkönen moved into second at Rosberg’s expense while Lewis Hamilton took to the run-off at Turn 1 to avoid his team-mate and slipped to sixth.

Vettel quickly established a two-second lead over Räikkönen as Hamilton swept past Felipe Massa, but was halted by Max Verstappen, with Hamilton unable to get past the youngster.

Rosberg was the first of the frontrunners to pit and put on a set of Softs, while Vettel reacted a lap later for Super Softs and only narrowly held his advantage, defending from Rosberg into Turn 3.

Räikkönen switched to another set of Super Softs a couple of laps later and was joined by Hamilton, who put on Mediums, but the race was stopped following a horrifying accident at Turn 3.

Alonso clipped the back of Gutiérrez’s Haas approaching the corner and slammed into the outside wall, before rolling across the gravel trap and coming to a rest upside down.

All four corners of the MP4-31 were destroyed, though both Alonso and Gutiérrez were able to walk away, and were taken to the medical centre as a precaution.

The race was restarted after a 20 minute delay, during which Vettel and Räikkönen remained on Super Soft tyres as Rosberg joined Hamilton on the Mediums.

Vettel led away from Rosberg but Räikkönen lasted only a few laps longer before his Ferrari developed a problem, with a small fire coming from his air box as he parked the car in the pits.

Vettel’s race started to unravel as he was unable to pull clear of Rosberg and came under pressure from the Medium-shod Mercedes driver.

Vettel stopped for fresh Soft tyres on lap 35 but lost time with a slow front left tyre change, emerging back in fourth, behind Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo (on used Softs) and Hamilton.

Hamilton swept past Ricciardo as he attempted to close down on Rosberg, before the Australian pitted, elevating Vettel to third.

Hamilton held a gap back to Vettel but a mistake under braking for Turn 9 allowed the Ferrari driver to close in, giving Vettel an opportunity during the closing stages.

However, Vettel erred a couple of laps later and slid wide on the grass at the penultimate corner, allowing Hamilton a clear run at second, as Rosberg cruised to his fourth successive victory.

Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull while Massa had a quiet run to fifth place for Williams.

While Haas had one car eliminated from the race, Romain Grosjean was able to change tyres during the red flag period and claimed an astonishing sixth place for the team on its debut.

Nico Hülkenberg was seventh for Force India, while Valtteri Bottas recovered from eighth after starting only 16th.

Carlos Sainz Jr. and Verstappen were both compromised by the stoppage, with the Dutchman angry at his team for servicing the Spaniard first in the pits, and spinning at the penultimate corner after clipping his team-mate.

Jolyon Palmer had an assured debut and was 11th, while Renault team-mate Kevin Magnussen suffered a first lap puncture and came 12th.

Sergio Pérez faded to 13th, ahead of Jenson Button, while Felipe Nasr and Pascal Wehrlein, who surged up from 21st to 14th at the start, completed the finishers.

Marcus Ericsson had a low-key race and was given a drive through penalty after his mechanics were working on his car within 15 seconds of the restart, before he pulled into the garage.

Rio Haryanto retired under the red flag period due to a driveline issue with his Manor.

An extra formation lap was required as Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull stopped on the way to the grid for a second successive year, preventing the Russian from taking the start.

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