Lewis Hamilton survives the Thunderdome and stands on the top step in Australia. Nico Rosberg finished 2nd 1.36 seconds behind Lewis. Sebastian Vettel took third to stand on the final step of the podium at the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne, Australia.
Lewis managed the race very well keeping Nico in his mirrors in a race that was vexed with nearly every form of retirement. Twenty cars showed up for the race in Melbourne this past weekend, 9 of them did not make it to the end of the race.
The first were the Manor GP cars. Neither of them made it out on track for practice, and by the end of Q1 there was not a Manor GP car insight.
Next up was Valtteri Bottas. It was reported that he would miss the race after qualifying 6th. Valtteri had put a tire off in the last corner of his last qualifying lap in Q3. His recovery looked like a rough ride, and may have caused the tear in a part of a disc in his lower back. Because of the injury Valtteri was deemed unfit to race by the FIA’s medical team.
Kevin Magnussen’s Honda engine blew up during the formation lap, quickly followed by Daniil Kvyat’s Renault engine neither of them would start the race.
Once the race started, the carnage continued. The siege into turn 1 started off looking pretty clean, until contact between Ferrari teammates, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, set off a chain reaction of contact sending Felipe Nasr’s Sauber into the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado. Maldonado ended up in the wall outside of turn 3 triggering a safety car.
During lap 1 under the safety car Romain Grosjean unexpectedly was called into the pits and immediately backed into the garage. Lotus later stated it was due to a power loss. Neither Lotus would return to the track resulting a double DNF the Enstone based team.
The next retirement came from Max Verstappen on lap 34. He radioed to his team that there was smoke in the cockpit of his Toro Rosso. Later that lap the youngest ever driver to start a Formula 1 Grand Prix was parked outside the pit entrance.
Finally Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire after a pit stop blunder caused his left rear tire to not get properly secured. He was forced to park his Ferrari in turn 4 on lap 41 after leaving the pits.
Once all the carbon fibre, and engine smoke cleared the racing in Melbourne got interesting. The American broadcast showed almost no shots of Lewis and Nico until the last few laps. This was because as all the action was about 30 seconds or more behind them.
Vettel earned his 3rd place when Felipe Massa pitted. Vettel was able to get just enough time on Massa to stay in third after his pitstop. Vettel was able to maintain the gap back to Massa for the rest of the race.
A minute behind Vettel and Massa, Daniel Ricciardo was giving it his all in 6th place to chase down the Sauber of Felipe Nasr. Daniel would not have enough power in his Red Bull to catch Nasr, and would finish the race 1 lap down.
Sauber had a lot of off track issues this weekend preventing them from participating in P1, but by the end of the weekend they proved their pace was real. Both of their cars finished in the top 10. Sauber’s double points finish put them third in the constructor’s standings at the end of the weekend.
Nico Hulkenberg had a relatively quiet race sneaking his Force India into 7th place.
Marcus Ericcson took 8th, passing Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso in the final laps of the race. Carlos drove an excellent race, but was plagued with a 55 second pit stop that must have seemed like an eternity to the rookie. Carlos Sainz was holding his own in 5th place, but later had to drive the tires off his Toro Rosso to at least land in the points in 9th place.
Segio Perez took the last point scoring position in 10th place after an intense battle with Jenson Button. A battle that resulted in Sergio’s car facing the wrong direction on a couple of occasions. McLaren had to remind Jenson that the battle wasn’t worth it since the rate of attrition gave them a good chance at points. Possibly their only chance at points all season.
McLaren’s detuned Honda engines just didn’t have the power necessary to get them in the points, but they did finish the race, albeit 2 laps down.
In the end only 11 cars crossed the finish line, but there was no shortage of excitement. It was a rough start for a lot of teams which will certainly make them eager for redemption in Malaysia.