MELBOURNE: Nico Rosberg capitalised on a slow start by world champion teammate, Lewis Hamilton, and superior tyre strategy over Ferrari to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The German won his fourth straight Grand Prix after stringing together the final three races of 2015 to beat his Mercedes rival Hamilton by eight seconds.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who led off the grid and was faster than the Mercedes pair on his super softs before needing a tyre change on lap 36, was third.
It was an incident-packed race with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso walking away from a horrifying high-speed crash and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari catching fire in the pit lane.
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Australian Daniel Riccardo was fourth in his Red Bull, with Brazilian Felipe Massa fifth and Renault’s Romain Grosjean sixth.
Hamilton, who had led every practice and qualifying session for the first race, was slow to start and allowed Vettel to dart through a narrow opening between both Mercedes to beat them to first turn.
Rosberg locked up on the inside of the first corner, forcing Hamilton to back off and allow Raikkonen to pass them both on the exit to the sharp right-hander.
Hamilton’s loss of momentum cost him two more places to Max Verstappen and Massa.
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Vettel opened up a 2.2sec gap over Raikkonen, with Rosberg falling 1.1sec behind the second Ferrari.
Alonso survives horror crash unscathed
Two-time world champion Alonso walked away unharmed from a horrifying crash that wrecked his McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old Spaniard, competing in his 253rd Formula One race, was shaken but remarkably uninjured when his car rolled and slammed into a barrier after clipping the Haas car of Mexican Esteban Gutierrez on lap 17 of the 57-lap season-opener.
Alonso’s McLaren initially veered into the wall on turn three before pitching into a series of violent rolls. It then flew through the gravel trap and slammed into another barrier, disintegrating upon impact.
The 34-year-old, who won the world title with Renault in 2005-06, quickly clambered out of the barely recognisable wreckage and walked away unaided. “I feel good. It was a combination of factors and it ended up in a crash,” said Alonso. “But we are lucky, we are both okay. For the safety of those cars is the reason why I am alive — and the safety wall.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2016.
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