Lewis Hamilton kicked off his title defence in perfect style as he beat his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to win the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton lead comfortably throughout, only ceding the lead to his team-mate at his opening stop, to take his first win of 2015. Rosberg came home second, 1.3s adrift of the reigning champion, while Sebastian Vettel was a fine third on his Ferrari debut.
As the lights went out to signal the start of the 2015 season Hamilton converted pole to lead into Turn 1 from his team-mate Rosberg and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
There was drama further down the field as the two Ferraris made contact, squeezing Felipe Nasr who collected Pastor Maldonado, tipping the Lotus into the wall and prompting an early safety car, while Romain Grosjean added to Lotus’ woes as he retired after a single lap, as the track was cleared.
The safety car was in at the end of the third lap, with Hamilton quick to take advantage, stretching an early lead from the sleeping Rosberg in second, while Nasr cleared the fast-starting Carlos Sainz Jr. on the run down to Turn 1 off the restart.
Massa kicked off the opening round of stops in the Williams, stopping on lap 22, but the Brazilian lost time after rejoining behind Daniel Ricciardo, allowing Vettel to jump him for a net third in the pits.
The Mercedes team-mates shadowed each other throughout the first stint before Hamilton pitted from the lead at the end of lap 25, rejoining comfortably in the lead after Rosberg followed him in a lap later.
The pair traded fastest laps throughout the second half of the race, with Rosberg closing within two seconds of his team-mate, but Hamilton had the race under control, as he controlled the pace to start his title defence with a win in Australia.
Nico Rosberg, last year’s race winner, settled for second behind Hamilton, while Sebastian Vettel beat Felipe Massa in the pits to take third, and secure a podium on his Ferrari debut.
Massa, the sole Williams in the Australian Grand Prix after Valtteri Bottas was forced to sit out the race after suffering a back injury during qualifying, came home fourth, three seconds shy of the Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen seemed set for fifth position, but the Finn was forced into retirement late on after a botched second stop, pulling out of the pits with a loose left-rear tyre.
Felipe Nasr scored Sauber’s first points in over a year on his Formula 1 debut, with a fine drive to fifth, ahead of local favourite Daniel Ricciardo, who finished a lapped sixth.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Force India, while Marcus Ericsson scored his first points in F1 after a late charge to eighth in the Sauber.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was another rookie to collect points on his debut, as the Spaniard came home ninth for Toro Rosso.
Sergio Perez picked up the final point on offer in tenth, despite a spin at Turn 3 early in the race as he battled with Jenson Button, who was the final classified runner in 11th, as McLaren-Honda completed a race distance for the first time in 2015.
Max Verstappen ran strongly within the points on his Formula 1 debut, but retired in the second half of the race after a Renault engine failure.
Kevin Magnussen failed to take the start after an engine failure on his reconnaissance lap to the grid, while Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull debut was cut short after he stopped out on track ahead of the race with a gearbox problem.
The two Manor team-mates of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens failed to qualify and did not take part.
2015 Australian Grand Prix – Provisional Classification:
1. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 58 laps 1h31m54.067
2. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes +1.360s
3. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari +34.523s
4. Felipe Massa – Williams +38.196s
5. Felipe Nasr – Sauber +1:35.149s
6. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull +1 lap
7. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India +1 lap
8. Marcus Ericsson – Sauber +1 lap
9. Carlos Sainz Jr – Toro Rosso +1 lap
10. Sergio Perez – Force India +1 lap
11. Jenson Button – McLaren +2 laps
Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 40 laps
Max Verstappen – Toro Rosso – 32 laps
Romain Grosjean – Lotus – 0 laps
Pastor Maldonado – Lotus – 0 laps
Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull – DNS
Kevin Magnussen – McLaren – DNS
Valtteri Bottas – Williams – Withdrawn
Will Stevens – Manor – Withdrawn
Roberto Merhi – Manor – Withdrawn
Images courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS