Lewis Hamilton has won the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. He beat team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s new recruit Sebastian Vettel to get his title defence off to the best possible start.
Hamilton started from pole position and only lost the lead in the pit-stop phases. This comes after Mercedes were fastest in all three practice sessions as well. They secured a front row lock-out on a much depleted grid which, by the race start, featured just 15 cars. The day started with Valtteri Bottas being declared unfit to race after he failed a part of the extraction test due to a back injury. Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat both stopped on the way to the grid after Magnussen’s engine gave up and Kvyat lost fifth gear.
Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, and Marcus Ericsson started the race on medium tyres while everyone else started on the soft compound. A safety car was deployed on the first lap following a collision which resulted in Pastor Maldonado’s car ending up in the barriers. There was contact between the Ferrari drivers and Felipe Nasr was squeezed, causing Maldonado to get tagged and be sent into a spin. Lotus had had a positive qualifying session but their race came to an end after just a lap when Romain Grosjean also had to retire. His race ended due to a loss of power. The safety car remained on track for three laps and then racing got going again.
The Mercedes duo unsurprisingly pulled away from the rest of the grid, eventually finishing 33 seconds clear of Ferrari in third. Just five drivers finished on the lead lap including impressive rookie Nasr. Williams’ sole representative Felipe Massa finished fourth after starting the race in third. Daniel Ricciardo finished a distant sixth for Red Bull – a lap down – ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button. There were some sticky wheel nuts in the pit-stop which cost drivers such as Raikkonen, Sainz, and Perez time. Raikkonen eventually retired due to a tyre which was not fitted correctly. Perez had a difficult race – overtaking Ericsson under the safety car, colliding with Button, and his slow stop – but recovered to score one point. McLaren had a positive afternoon to finish the race, albeit two laps down. Expectations were already low at the team and this was further compounded by Magnussen’s car expiring before racing. Verstappen pulled over to retire at the pit entrance due to an engine failure.
Mercedes’ pace was an ominous sign for the rest of the grid as Hamilton also set the fastest lap on his way to winning the race. The pair were once again in a race of their own. Behind them it looks like Ferrari have leapfrogged Williams, although the latter only had one driver on the grid today. There were impressive debuts for all three rookies – in particular Nasr – but disappointment eventually for Verstappen. It was an odd day for Formula One with so many drivers dropping out before the lights went out. Hopefully Manor will be able to run in Malaysia and there will be a fuller grid in two weeks time, with Fernando Alonso also set to return.