Mercedes driver victorious in 2014 season-opener, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and rookie Kevin Magnussen.
Sun 16.03.14, 9:09AM
Nico Rosberg laid down a marker for Mercedes with an emphatic yet controlled victory at the Australian Grand Prix, the German finishing 24 seconds ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and third–placed Kevin Magnussen of McLaren, both of whom scored their first podium finish.
It had been Rosberg’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton with the advantage at the start, however. The 2008 champion had taken his 32nd career pole on Saturday, with Ricciardo on the front row ahead of third-placed Rosberg.
At the start, though, Hamilton got away badly, allowing Rosberg to power through to take the lead ahead of Ricciardo who held second position from Hamilton and McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen. Behind them Nico Hulkenberg rose to fifth from seventh on the grid as Fernando Alonso became embroiled in a battle for sixth place with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. Out of the race though were Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi and Williams’ Felipe Massa, the pair colliding into turn one.
Hamilton was soon experiencing more difficulties. He slipped from third to fifth, as first Magnussen swept past and then Hulkenberg stole through to claim fourth. The Mercedes driver’s day then went from bad to worse as he was told to retire by his pit wall. He eventually pulled into pit lane on lap five to bow out of the race.
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel was also in trouble. After an aborted start due to a problem with Max Chilton’s Marussia, Vettel complained of a lack of boost from his power unit on the second formation lap and the situation didn’t improve in the early laps of the race. The Red Bull Racing driver then pitted on lap five from P16 for checks but failed to emerge.
On track, Rosberg had eked out a six-second gap to Ricciardo by lap 10, with Magnussen a further half second down on the Red Bull Racing driver. Hulkenberg was fourth, just 0.3s ahead of Alonso, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas sixth.
Bottas’ battle with Alonso wouldn’t last, however. On lap 11 the Finn clipped a wall with his rear right wheel, which quickly detached from his car. The debris from the incident then led to the safety car being deployed on lap 12. Rosberg took the opportunity to pit, taking on another set of soft tyres, He was followed immediately by Ricciardo, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Alonso, all taking soft tyres again.
The safety car left the track at the end of lap 15 and Rosberg comfortably held his lead from Ricciardo and soon began setting fastest laps again. By lap 20 the Mercedes driver had rebuilt a lead of 4.4s over the Australian, with Magnussen safe in third, four seconds ahead of Hulkenberg, who was backing up those behind him.
Bottas, meanwhile, was mounting a comeback. After limping back to the pits for a new wheel following his brush with the wall, the Williams driver rejoined in 17th position. He was soon scything through the field, however, and by lap 28 he was back up to eighth place and pressuring Kimi Raikkonen.
Jenson Button initiated the next round of stops on lap 33 taking on medium tyres and he was followed by Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne.
Hukenberg’s stop gave the Alonso the opportunity to increase his pace prior to his own second stop and at the end of lap 35 the Ferrari driver came in for a set of medium. He rejoined just ahead of Hulkenberg and though the Force India driver battled hard to reclaim the position Alonso’s defence was robust enough hold on.
Alonso, however, wasn’t the major beneficiary of the second round of stops. Button had used an early first stop to vault to sixth from the edge of the top 10 and did so again with his second stop, the ‘undercut’ giving him the pace to steal ahead of both Hulkenberg and Alonso and claim fourth place.
Rosberg was the last of the front runners to pit but after he switched to the medium Pirelli tyres on lap 48 he rejoined with a 16-second lead over Ricciardo, who was slowly falling into the clutches of third-placed Magnussen, the gap between the RB10 and MP4-29 down to 1.2s by lap 42.
Button, meanwhile, was chasing down his team-mate, with Alonso fifth. Behind the Ferrari, Hulkenberg was being reeled in by seventh-placed Vergne, while Bottas was now up to eighth ahead of Raikkonen and 10th-placed Kvyat. The Williams driver eventually passed Vergne on lap 47 when the Frenchman got on the dirt in the final corner and momentarily slid sideways.
At the front Rosberg was comfortably strolling towards the chequered flag but Ricciardo was now struggling. The Red Bull Racing driver’s pace began to flag and Magnussen closed in.
The Dane probed and prodded but could find no way past the home hero and the podium order remained the same as Rosberg powered across the line to claim his fourth career victory and his first since last year’s British Grand Prix.
Magnussen’s team-mate Button finished fourth, ahead of Alonso. Williams had plenty to celebrate as Bottas claimed sixth place, the Finn having completed a lap-52 move past Hulkenberg. The Force India man was seventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Vergne and Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat.
2014 Australian Grand Prix – Race Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 58 Winner 25
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 58 +24.5 secs 18
3 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 58 +26.7 secs 15
4 Jenson Button McLaren 58 +30.0 secs 12
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 58 +35.2 secs 10
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 58 +47.6 secs 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 58 +50.7 secs 6
8 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 58 +57.6 secs 4
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso58 +60.4 secs 2
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 58 +63.5 secs 1
11 Sergio Perez Force India 58 +85.9 secs
12 Adrian Sutil Sauber 57 +1 Lap
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 57 +1 Lap
14 Max Chilton Marussia 56 +2 Laps
Ret Jules Bianchi Marussia 50 +8 Laps
Ret Romain Grosjean Lotus 44 +14 Laps
Ret Pastor Maldonado Lotus 30 +28 Laps
Ret Marcus Ericsson Caterham 28 +30 Laps
Ret Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 4 +54 Laps
Ret Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 3 +55 Laps
Ret Felipe Massa Williams 0 +58 Laps
Ret Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 0 +58 Laps