Australian Grand Prix: Rosberg cruises to victory as young guns steal the show

Podium (L to R) second placed Daniel Ricciardo, race winner Nico Rosberg, Andy Cowell (Mercedes) and third placed Kevin Magnussen

Podium (L to R) second placed Daniel Ricciardo, race winner Nico Rosberg, Andy Cowell (Mercedes) and third placed Kevin Magnussen

Note this report was published prior to Daniel Ricciardo’s  disqualificationfrom second place in the Australian Grand Prix – see report here>>>

It was a walk in the Albert Park for Nico Rosberg, after capitalising on the early retirement of pole winner and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, he proceeded to notch up an historic Australian Grand Prix win in the first race of the Formula 1 V6 turbo era and Round 1 of the 2014 World Championship, while behind him young guns Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen heralded their arrival in the big league with podium finishes.

Rosberg managed a great start from the second row, leading into Turn 1 and simply blasting into the lead as pre-race favourite Hamilton struggled off the line, and got swamped by the pack. By lap three he was out of the race.

Up ahead Rosberg proceeded to edge away, and even an early race Safety Car period failed to give the others a chance. As he crossed the finish line he bellowed over the radio: “Fantastic boys. What a car you have given me, what a car!”

Australian Grand Prix race winner Nico Rosberg

Australian Grand Prix race winner Nico Rosberg

On the podium Rosberg added,  “It has been an amazing time in Melbourne. The support has been fantastic, Daniel got more support than me, but that’s normal. It has been an amazing day. Everyone has worked so hard over the weather and to have such an amazing Silver Arrow is unbelievable. The reliability was good and it’s the perfect start to the season.”

Mercedes lived up to their pre-race favourites tag afforded them by all and sundry, thus the big story was behind Rosberg where Ricciardo in his first race for Red Bull, finished second, scoring his first podium in Formula 1 and that it happened on home soil was a double bonus for the big smiling Aussie who drove a controlled race.

“Just two or three weeks ago, I would not have bet we would be standing up here but full credit to team for an unbelievable turn around. And thanks to the Aussie fans. The support has been completely overwhelming,” declared Ricciardo.

Nico Rosberg led the 2014 Australian Grand Prix from start to finish

Nico Rosberg led the 2014 Australian Grand Prix from start to finish

Two seconds behind the Red Bull, Magnussen became the first Dane to finish on a Formula 1 podium, remarkably taking third in his debut grand prix and leading home his veteran McLaren teammate Jenson Button who finished fourth after starting tenth, ensuring that McLaren leave Australia top of the constructor’s points.

Magnussen’s mature drive belied his experience, he even had a look at Ricciardo late on in the race, before containing his second place ambitions and settling for a solid third place.

“It’s hard to believe and it seems so surreal. The car was so much better than it has been and I had just exactly what we needed for the whole race. The preparation we have done have been fantastic. I have never had a Formula 1 race and you only get limited time for testing, so congratulations to the team for doing such a good job,” said Magnussen afterwards.

Kamui Kobayashi slams into the back of Felipe Massa on lap one in Turn 1

Kamui Kobayashi slams into the back of Felipe Massa on lap one in Turn 1

After the dust settled it would be fair to say that the season-opener was hardly a thriller, but then this was the first race of a new era with far too little testing allowed for such a complex new formula and new technology. The prophets of doom who had predicted no finishers, or Mercedes lapping the field by two laps were way off the mark.

Nevertheless, right from the start there was action as Kamui Kobayashi blotted his return to the pinnacle of motorsport with a charge into Turn 1 which saw him plough into the back of Felipe Massa’s Williams – their races over almost before it began. Credit for the Japanese driver for accepting the blame, albeit cryptically, on Twitter:  “Sorry to Felipe but was not my mistake.”

Needless to say Massa was not happy, “It’s a shame. He can’t start like that and every time he does it will be the same outcome. I did a very safe start but if someone hits you, you can’t do anything about that. It’s not a big difference from what [Kobayashi] did to what [Romain] Grosjean did at Spa and he sat out one race for that.”

Grosjean got a one race ban for his Spa shenanigans in 2012.

Esteban Gutierrez  spins shortly after the start

Esteban Gutierrez spins shortly after the start

On lap three Hamilton pitted for good, after being told to bring it in and retire. The Briton did an extra lap but to no avail, “We knew reliability could be an issue but of course it surprises you when it happens, but it’s early stages and there’s a long way to go so I will remain positive and focus on the next race. You see people pulling away and I felt like I didn’t have power. I kept going as long as I could, but there was no point.”

Six laps into the race Sebastian Vettel’s weekend also came to a premature end as he too coasted into the pits. The world champion explained,  “On the second formation lap we lost power for some reason, we don’t know why. It’s going to be a long season. At the beginning I thought it was OK, but I didn’t get any power from the battery and the engine failed.”

If McLaren enjoyed a renaissance relative to last year, it was another disappointing start to the season for Ferrari. Clearly the F14T is not a challenger for race wins at this point, and yet again the Maranello outfit starts the season on the back foot, with a sub-standard race car which made two of the sport’s most experienced drivers look decidedly ordinary.

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen endured a lacklustre start to 2014

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen endured a lacklustre start to 2014

Fernando Alonso started fifth and finished fifth, apparently unable to mount much of an attack at any time, while Kimi Raikkonen turned 11th on the grid to eighth when the chequered flag dropped to end the race. For a team who have structured their driver line-up and hired some of the greatest minds in the sport with the sole objective to challenge for the titles, this was a poor start to that master plan.

Grand Prix 247 Man of the Match Award goes to Valtteri Bottas, who recovered after early on slamming the wall exiting Turn 10, which resulted in a cracked wheel rim and the tyre flying off. The Williams driver then drove slowly to the pits, changed rear wheel and proceeded to deliver a stirring drive on his way to sixth after rejoining the action in 16th. He received a boisterous ovation as he entered the Williams pit garage after the race.

Nico Hulkenberg at one stage was running as high up as fourth place, and mixing it comfortably with Alonso and the like. But the Force India VJM07 appeared to run out of steam and he eventually finished seventh, ahead of Raikkonen.

The start

The start

Toro Rosso will leave Melbourne pleased with their qualifying performance which saw both cars manage to make it through to Q3, and then 24 hours later both cars finishing in the points with Jean Eric Vergne and teenage rookie Daniil Kvyat finishing ninth and tenth respectively – another great debut on the day as the young Russian bagged a point in his first grand prix.

As expected neither Lotus finished, but at least Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado managed to do some laps, any of which will be of value for the beleaguered outfit.

Marcus Ericsson endured a disappointing grand prix debut, retiring on lap 28 and bringing to an end a torrid weekend for Caterham, perhaps the only glimmer of hope being that the Swedish rookie ran as high as 12th early on in the race.

It was an equally forgettable day for Marussia, which  badly before the race even got underway when both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton stalled their cars on the grid and were forced to start from the pitlane. Chilton survived to finish 14th, while Bianchi finished eight laps behind the winner in 15th.

The end

The end

Force India newcomer Sergio Perez had an inconspicuous debut for his new team, finishing 11th but he was completely overshadowed by teammate Hulkenberg, while Adrian Sutil also had a low key debut for Sauber on his way to 12th place. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 13th.

Thus ends the tale of the first round of the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship, and the beginning of the sport’s brave new era. Our verdict? Could have been much worse, but the foundation has been laid for what is going to be a cracking season of Formula 1 racing. (GP247)

Subbed by AJN.

Australian Grand Prix, Race Result – Sunday, 16 March 2014

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time Grid Pts
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 57 1:32:58.710 3 25
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 57 +24.5 secs 2 18
3 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 57 +26.7 secs 4 15
4 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 57 +30.0 secs 10 12
5 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 57 +35.2 secs 5 10
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 57 +47.6 secs 15 8
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 57 +50.7 secs 7 6
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 57 +57.6 secs 11 4
9 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 57 +60.4 secs 6 2
10 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 57 +63.5 secs 8 1
11 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 57 +85.9 secs 16
12 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 56 +1 Lap 13
13 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 56 +1 Lap 20
14 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 55 +2 Laps 17
Ret 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 49 +8 Laps 18
Ret 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 43 +14 Laps 22
Ret 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 29 +28 Laps 21
Ret 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 27 +30 Laps 19
Ret 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 3 +54 Laps 12
Ret 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2 Engine 1
Ret 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 0 Accident 9
Ret 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 0 Accident 14

Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg 1:32.478

Note – Bottas qualified P10, drops 5 (gearbox change penalty); Gutierrez qualified P19, drops 5 (gearbox change penalty); Maldonado did not set Q3 time within 107%, started race at stewards’ discretion; Grosjean starts from pit lane (parc ferme changes)

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