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Australian Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg Wins from Daniel Ricciardo as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel Retire

16 Mars 2014 - Telegraph Media

Australian Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg Wins from Daniel Ricciardo as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel Retire

Nico Rosberg underlined Mercedes's status as favourites for the 2014 championship, cruising to victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

It was not a perfect day for the team, however, as Lewis Hamilton had to retire after just four laps with engine trouble, quickly followed by reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.

The season-opener looked like it would be a hugely memorable one for Daniel Ricciardo, who finished second at his home race and his first for Red Bull.

However, it later emerged that the Australian was facing disqualification for exceeding fuel flow limit with Red Bull speaking to Stewards in the aftermath of the race.

A report from FIA technical director Jo Bauer read: "During the race, car number 03 (Ricciardo) has exceeded consistently the maximum fuel flow of 100kg/h.

"As this is not in compliance with Article 5.1.4 of the Formula One technical regulations, I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration."

If that is the case, Dane Kevin Magnussen, just 21, following in the footsteps of former McLaren rookie Hamilton, would be moved up to second having taken a phenomenal third on his debut.

Ron Dennis, returning to control at McLaren, said it was his decision to hire Magnussen, and what a decision it has turned out to be. The team lead the constructors’ championship after the first event, with Jenson Button finishing a solid fourth.

But despite the brilliant drives by Ricciardo and Magnussen, there can be little denying how impressive a performance this was by Mercedes and Rosberg.

“What a car you have given me,” Rosberg said. “Unbelievable.” If Mercedes continue at this pace, they will be hard to stop.

Ricciardo sounded almost giddy as he took the first podium of his career. “I think we can see your smile from here,” his team said on the radio.

It was an incredible turnaround for Red Bull, who looked nowhere at the end of pre-season testing.

“Two or three weeks ago I would bet everything that we would not be standing up here”, the Australian said. “I don’t understand how the team did it but they did.”

Aside from these exceptional performances, the race showed just how good Formula One teams are.

The rate of attrition was far lower than expected under these new regulations, with only four retirements due to unreliability, and six in total. It was a triumph for the sport’s new rules.

But the start of the race certainly lived up to the billing.

Britain’s Max Chilton had to start from the pitlane, only to be followed by his Marussia team-mate. After a second formation lap, Formula One in 2014 was underway.

Hamilton, without full use of his six cylinders, lost places to Ricciardo and Rosberg, who scythed his way into the lead.

Reigning champion Vettel, starting in 12th, was also helpless to defend. After lapping around 15 seconds off the pace, he finally gave in to the inevitable on lap five.

Hamilton managed even less, only making it to lap four, and after some slightly confused radio messages the favourite for the championship pulled into the garage.

As he watched his team-mate pull away, the 29 year-old said: “As soon as I left the lane I had a lot less power than I usually have. I think of all the work that has gone in from the guys in the factory and all the days and nights stressing.

“We looked so strong but to then have a hiccup is tough for everyone, but we will bounce back.”

The first 15 laps were full of frenetic racing behind Rosberg, who eased away from Ricciardo in second and rookie Magnussen in third.

The returning Kamui Kobayashi showed his year’s absence by wiping Felipe Massa out at the first corner, prompting the Brazilian to call for strong punishment by the FIA.

His team-mate Valtteri Bottas then brought out the safety car after clipping the wall, suffering a puncture in the process. The Finn managed to continue to sixth, salvaging his best points finish on what was a disappointing day for Williams given their pre-season promise.

After the restart – which Rosberg executed in an almost Vettel-esque fashion - it went all a bit 2013-style for the middle of the race, with teams anxious to conserve fuel and protect these fragile new cars.

Fernando Alonso found himself stuck behind his 2013 nemesis Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, while Kimi Raikkonen struggled behind.

Lotus, around five seconds off the pace, made it further than many expected, but then the inevitable happened. Pastor Maldonado retired on lap 31, followed by Romain Grosjean 14 laps later.

Despite all the warnings of doom and gloom, and reliability problems galore, the rate of attrition was not much higher than normal. All the fears of drivers tiptoeing their way around seemed unfounded: Ricciardo’s engineer told him to “hit the beeps”.

But it was not long before he was being hassled by 21 year-old Magnussen behind, who was on his tail with seven laps to go. The Dane has had to deal with the pressure of being the first McLaren rookie since Hamilton, but he drove superbly.

Meanwhile, in a different race almost, Rosberg was showing everything that has made Mercedes the favourites, finishing nearly 25 seconds clear.

2014 FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

Pos

Driver

Team

Time/Retired

Grid

Pts

1

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

1:32:58.710

3

25

2

Kevin Magnussen

McLaren-Mercedes

+26.7 secs

4

18

3

Jenson Button

McLaren-Mercedes

+30.0 secs

10

15

4

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

+35.2 secs

5

12

5

Valtteri Bottas

Williams-Mercedes

+47.6 secs

15

10

6

Nico Hulkenberg

Force India-Mercedes

+50.7 secs

7

8

7

Kimi Räikkönen

Ferrari

+57.6 secs

11

6

8

Jean-Eric Vergne

STR-Renault

+60.4 secs

6

4

9

Daniil Kvyat

STR-Renault

+63.5 secs

8

2

10

Sergio Perez

Force India-Mercedes

+85.9 secs

16

1

11

Adrian Sutil

Sauber-Ferrari

+1 Lap

13

 

12

Esteban Gutierrez

Sauber-Ferrari

+1 Lap

20

 

13

Max Chilton

Marussia-Ferrari

+2 Laps

17

 

Ret

Jules Bianchi

Marussia-Ferrari

+8 Laps

18

 

Ret

Romain Grosjean

Lotus-Renault

+14 Laps

22

 

Ret

Pastor Maldonado

Lotus-Renault

+28 Laps

21

 

Ret

Marcus Ericsson

Caterham-Renault

+30 Laps

19

 

Ret

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull Racing-Renault

+54 Laps

12

 

Ret

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

Engine

1

 

Ret

Felipe Massa

Williams-Mercedes

Accident

9

 

Ret

Kamui Kobayashi

Caterham-Renault

Accident

14

 

DSQ

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull Racing-Renault

+24.5 secs

2

 

 

Team results

Pos

Team

Points

1

McLaren-Mercedes

33

2

Mercedes

25

3

Ferrari

18

4

Williams-Mercedes

10

5

Force India-Mercedes

9

6

STR-Renault

6

7

Sauber-Ferrari

0

8

Marussia-Ferrari

0

9

Lotus-Renault

0

10

Caterham-Renault

0

11

Red Bull Racing-Renault

0

 

 

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