• Australian GP

Rosberg crushes opposition in Australia

ESPN Staff
March 16, 2014
Nico Rosberg celebrates victory in the season opener © Getty Images
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Nico Rosberg dominated the first grand prix of Formula One's new turbo era, winning from Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo by 24.5s on a day when Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel failed to make the finish.

Mercedes' display of strength was ominous for its rivals, but Hamilton's retirement on lap three, when one of his engine's six cylinders gave up, was a reminder that reliability will be as important as outright pace this year. Vettel was struggling with engine problems as early as the warm-up lap and parked his Red Bull on lap four, getting his title defence off to a stuttering start.

Nevertheless, Ricciardo's second place will represent a significant victory for Red Bull, which had not completed a race distance at any point during pre-season testing. Kevin Magnussen kicked his F1 career off to an impressive start with a third place finish ahead of McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who fought through the field from tenth on the grid.

Fernando Alonso finished fifth, underlining the hard work Ferrari has ahead of it with its new car but also limiting the damage to his points tally at this early stage of the season. Valtteri Bottas was among the quickest drivers on the track for much of the race but ruined his chances of a podium on lap 10 when he touched the wall and suffered a puncture at Turn 9. He recovered to finish sixth, but there is little doubt Williams has yet to show its potential.

Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who struggled under braking all afternoon. The final points on offer went to the two Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.

The race got off to a messy start as Hamilton bogged down from pole position, Magnussen slewed sideways from fourth on the grid and Kamui Kobayashi came crashing through from the midfield and wiped out Felipe Massa. A couple of cagey laps followed for all drivers as positions were made and lost up and down the field, but it was clear Rosberg had a significant advantage and he used it to extend his lead.

Bottas' puncture brought out the safety car, but Rosberg's Mercedes quickly rebuilt its lead at the restart. Button took advantage of the situation to move up to sixth place and put his McLaren in a position to attack. An early second pit stop then helped Button leapfrog Hulkenberg and Alonso, but it was clear the McLaren had a performance advantage over both cars.

Rosberg's lead never looked in doubt, but Magnussen closed to within a second of Ricciardo towards the end of the race to put pressure on the Red Bull. However, Ricciardo had fuel in reserve and was able to turn the wick up on the RB10 to keep the McLaren at bay.

The chaos predicted in the build-up to the race failed to emerge, with 15 cars making it to the chequered flag. Rather predictably both Lotuses failed to make the finish, although the team will take some encouragement from both cars completing longer stints than they had at any point during pre-season testing. Caterham also failed to see either of its cars finish, but Kobayashi's over-eagerness at the start should not count against the reliability record of the CT05.

Kamui Kobayashi trudges away after his first-corner error © Sutton Images
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