Nico Rosberg takes out the Melbourne Grand Prix for Mercedes – as it happened

In a surprisingly exciting start to the 2016 Formula One championship, Nico Rosberg survived a furious start from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel — and Fernando Alonso survived unscathed after a massive, scary shunt — to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Nico Rosberg takes out the Melbourne Grand Prix for Mercedes – as it happened” was written by Adam Woolcock, for theguardian.com on Sunday 20th March 2016 07.10 UTC

7.07am GMT

Victory for Rosberg, Mercedes do it tougher than expected.

And as the champagne spraying extravaganza begins, here’s the final results in more depth.

It wasn’t the procession for Mercedes that we expected, but after a disastrous start they got there in the end. Ferrari’s tire selection dilemma didn’t help Vettel, but he certainly showed enough to suggest that there will be a lot competitive races this year.

Thanks for joining us today, congratulations to Mercedes on their victory and keep checking back for our updates throughout the season and for all your Formula One news as the circuit rolls on. The next race is in Bahrain on Sunday 6 April.

Updated at 7.10am GMT

7.03am GMT

For those who prefer their race classifications with full names instead of driver abbreviations that’s:

  1. Rosberg
  2. Hamilton
  3. Vettel
  4. Ricciardo
  5. Massa
  6. Grosjean
  7. Hulkenberg
  8. Votta
  9. Sainz
  10. Verstappen
  11. Palmer
  12. Magnussen
  13. Perez
  14. Button
  15. Nasr
  16. Wehrlein

7.01am GMT

With Haas taking points on debut for the first time since Toyota and Mika Salo (there’s a blast from the past) Roman Grosjean is overjoyed, and rightfully so. They benefited from the red flag, but the speed during the race showed that their qualifying performance was not representative of the car’s speed.

Here’s the order of the finishers:

6.58am GMT

You can’t blame them for getting excited and going all-caps. It’s a great start to the season for the Mercs.

6.56am GMT

Rosberg WINS!

Lap 57 – The Finn crosses the line, following in the footsteps of his father who won in Adelaide in 1985. Hamilton is the runner-up, and Vettel will round off the podium with a third place finish.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s German driver Nico Rosberg (L) celebrates with his team members after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s German driver Nico Rosberg (L) celebrates with his team members after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 7.08am GMT

6.54am GMT

Lap 56 – Unless Verstappen tries something outrageous on Sainz there’s not many changes in order to be had as we enter the last lap. This is Rosberg’s race, and Ricciardo will be pleased to finish fourth on home soil.

6.53am GMT

Lap 55 – Vettel runs wide on the last turn! That’s it for the battle for second place, and the Mercedes 1-2 is safe. Earlier in the lap Lewis had survived running over debris from the Sainz/Verstappen brawl.

6.51am GMT

Lap 54 – It’s Rosberg’s race to lose now, he’s got such a commanding lead that he can putt around safely now and make sure he gets to the finishing line. It’s likely to be the Mercedes win we all expected, but perhaps not the man in front. A 1-2 would not have been unexpected, but Hamilton’s trouble with Vettel has been greater than he’d have wanted. The German is now half a second behind in third.

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG GP is keeping his cool at Albert Park.

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG GP is keeping his cool at Albert Park. Photograph: Julian Smith/EPA

Updated at 6.55am GMT

6.50am GMT

Lap 53 – Lewis has stabilised his battle with Vettel, but the big battle of Sainz vs Verstappen has come to its natural conclusion with the two colliding. Both are still in the race, via a Verstappen spin, but this is a battle to watch for the rest of the season.

6.48am GMT

Lap 52 – Vettel is all over Hamilton now, cutting the gap to half a second. They’re both still 10 seconds behind the leader. Five laps remaining.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany is still charging at Lewis Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany is still charging at Lewis Hamilton. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Updated at 6.54am GMT

6.46am GMT

Lap 51 – Two of the rookies are still going, Palmer in 11th and Wehrlein the last man on track in 16th. The rookie team Haas looks like they’re going to pocket points on debut, with Grosjean sixth.

6.45am GMT

Lap 50 – It’s 8.4 seconds from Rosberg to Hamilton at the front, and a further 2.5 to Vettel in third.

6.44am GMT

Lap 49 – Seven laps left and Rosberg looks home from here. The gap between second and third is down to 3.2 seconds so we might see some action in that battle yet.

6.42am GMT

Lap 48 – Max nearly loses it all pushing hard around the corner but manages to save himself from an excursion of the track. Hamilton and Vettel are gaining on Rosberg, but neither at enough speed to make a difference.

6.41am GMT

Lap 47 – With Max Verstappen making like every 18-year-old male and swearing in public he’s unable to get past Sainz for 9th. Frustration levels are on the rise, and we’re all waiting for the great moment where he has a huge look at his teammate.

6.39am GMT

Lap 46 – Ricciardo takes fourth from Massa, prompting celebrations in the crowd, but he’s too far behind Vettel to challenge for third unless something crazy happens. Rosberg continues his pace at the front, with Hamilton 10.5 seconds behind.

6.38am GMT

Lap 45 – Rosberg continues to hold his comfortable lead, down the field most the excitement is in Ricciardo vs Massa for 4th place using his new set of soft tires.

6.36am GMT

Lap 44 – 12 laps left and the lead is still 9.9 seconds. Grosjean now sits sixth for Haas, but with Hulkenberg and Bottas right on his hammer.

6.34am GMT

Lap 43 – Ricciardo is forced to pit for new tires, allowing Vettel into the top three. The lead is nine seconds, with another six from Rosberg to Vettel.

Updated at 6.34am GMT

6.33am GMT

Lap 42 – Rosberg adds a second to the lead on Hamilton, while down the field Sainz finally gets past Palmer, and Verstappen joins him two turns later.

6.31am GMT

Lap 41 – Sainz and Verstappen are having a ding dong battle behind Palmer, with Carlos locking his Toro Rosso up under pressure from his teammate. Meanwhile Palmer is still keeping both at bay.

Hamilton gets Ricciardo into second on the straight!

6.30am GMT

Lap 40 – Vettel is flying, back to 17 seconds behind Rosberg and seven behind Hamilton. Marcus Ericsson is on the verge of retirement in his Sauber with mechanical issues.

6.28am GMT

Lap 39 – Rosberg has 19 seconds on Vettel in fourth, with questions about whether Daniel Ricciardo’s tires can get him to the end of the race in second.

Nico Rosberg of Germany takes a corner ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Finland.

Nico Rosberg of Germany takes a corner ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Finland. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Updated at 6.31am GMT

6.27am GMT

Lap 38 – Hamilton contines to gain ground on the leaders while Jolyon Palmer holds Sainz and Verstappen off in 9th place.

6.25am GMT

Lap 37 – Our top 10:

Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Vettel, Massa, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Palmer and Sainz. 17 drivers still left.

6.24am GMT

Lap 36 – Vettel rejoined the race in fourth, with Hamilton starting to put pressure on Ricciardo as the fastest man on the track. Rosberg leads.

6.22am GMT

Lap 35 – Vettel is in, and Rosberg takes the lead. Ferrari put the soft tires on but lose time with pit lane difficulties.

6.21am GMT

Lap 34 – Rosberg is slowly catching Vettel, cutting the lead to a second during the lap before ending it 1.4 behind. Tire strategy is going to prove crucial, with Mercedes looking to take Rosberg through to the end on this set.

6.19am GMT

Lap 33 – Verstappen pits but it’s a sloppy one, possibly due to a late call, and he loses out significantly. Hamilton now up to fourth.

6.18am GMT

Lap 32 – The margin is 2.3 seconds at the front, and the question is how long Vettel can stay out of the pits.

Sebastian Vettel (L) of Scuderia Ferrari and British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes earlier.

Sebastian Vettel (L) of Scuderia Ferrari and British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes earlier. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

Updated at 6.26am GMT

6.16am GMT

Lap 31 – As Vettel loses time to Rosberg, Hamilton has a look down the inside of Sainz and can’t get him but then takes advantage of Sainz’s trip down pit lane to get back in front. Sainz comes out behind Perez in 12th.

6.15am GMT

Lap 30 – There’s a good battle developing between 8th and 10th, with Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Bottas all within two seconds.

6.14am GMT

Lap 29 – Just over the halfway mark, assuming the race isn’t called for time before 57 laps, and Vettel remains in charge. Down the list Hamilton is still stuck behind Sainz and Verstappen.

6.13am GMT

Lap 28 – After a lap where Rosberg took a sliver of time off Vettel’s lead the German has made it up again. Down the field Grosjean is now up to eight after his lucky break with the free pit stop.

6.10am GMT

Lap 27 – The lead is out to three seconds, with another seven between Rosberg and Ricciardo.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing drives ahead of Max Verstappen of the Netherlands.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing drives ahead of Max Verstappen of the Netherlands. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Updated at 6.20am GMT

6.09am GMT

Lap 26 – Marcus Ericsson has been handed a drive through penalty for having his team work on his car in the last 15 seconds before the restart. It won’t make much difference as he’s at the back of the field, but a free position will come in handy for Manor’s Wehrlein who is currently 16th.

The man in Red continues to leave, but he can’t quite shake Rosberg.

6.07am GMT

Lap 25 – In the battle for 4th to 6th Hamilton is still 0.8 behind Sainz who is roughly the same behind Verstappen. The surviving Ferrari ads another 0.2 to the lead.

6.06am GMT

Lap 24 – Rosberg continues to lose time on Vettel, and with Ferrari always the most popular team in the stands of Melbourne it will be a very well received victory if Sebastian can stay there.

6.04am GMT

Lap 23 – The retirement leaves Ricciardo third, and every chance of a popular hometown podium finish. Verstappen is fourth, now on the verge of his first top three appearance. What a race it’s been so far.

6.03am GMT

Lap 22 – Vettel continues to lead, but Raikkonen pulls into the pits with the forlorn cry of “something’s broken” and retires with a fire in his airbox. The ‘something’ was a giant flame burning centimetres above his bonce. That puts Bottas into the top 10, and Palmer’s goes a step closer to a point on debut.

6.01am GMT

Lap 21- Vettel extends the gap to 1.5 seconds, with the last runner Kevin Magnussen in the Renault. The big winner of the red flag was Grosjean in the other Haas who hadn’t yet pitted and now sits 9th.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel turns in front of the Melbourne cityscape.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel turns in front of the Melbourne cityscape. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Updated at 6.08am GMT

5.59am GMT

Lap 20 – Rosberg takes Raikkonen for second on the restart, but Hamilton is down to seventh and now has to get past Carlos Sainz before he even gets another look at Verstappen. It’s a 1.3 second lead, with another 1.2 from Rosberg to Kimi.

A track marshall carries away debris after Fernando Alonso’s big prang.

A track marshall carries away debris after Fernando Alonso’s big prang. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Updated at 6.04am GMT

5.57am GMT

Lap 19 – The cars are leaving pit-lane, but they’re doing it without Manor’s Rio Haryanto who has retired from his maiden race. That leaves us with 18 runners. The safety car is coming in this lap and we will resume hostilities with Sebastian Vettel in front.

Hamilton’s got an alarm going off in his car but his team aren’t able to provide advice due to the new rules.

5.54am GMT

Before we return to the race here’s a video view at what prompted the red flag.

5.52am GMT

While we clear up let’s look at what’s happened so far:

  • Daniil Kvyat’s car failed him in Melbourne for the second consecutive year, despite some suggestion that he might start from pit lane to use it as a glorified practice session he has now officially retired.
  • The two Ferrari cars jumped Hamilton and Rosberg on the first corner and have remained in front but for pit stops since.
  • Hometown hero Ricciardo looks like the best he can settle for is a points finish.
  • Fernando Alonso walks away unscathed after a massive crash which practically left his turned into a cube
  • Confirmation, as if we needed it, that the crash will be investigated by the stewards after the race.

Almost ready to go again, with a hasty clean-up job leaving the track clear.

5.47am GMT

@alo_oficial R U OK?

5.45am GMT

The safety car restart from pit lane has been confirmed for 16:55 local time (10 minutes).

The current classification is: Vettel, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton, Massa, Grosjean, Bottas in the points.

Hulkenberg, Palmer, Perez, Ericsson, Button, Nasr, Wehrlein and Haryanto and Magnussen finish the lineup of cars still on the track.

5.43am GMT

A better look at the damage to Alonso’s car. That is the posture of a man who has just seen his life flash before his eyes.

Hamilton has changed a damaged wing while in the pits, and we’ll let you know when we know more about the proposed restart time.

5.38am GMT

Here’s the first pictures of the incident, with Gutierrez running straight to Alonso to make sure he was ok.

Updated at 5.41am GMT

5.38am GMT

All the cars are returning to pit lane while the carnage is cleared. Fernando is waving to the crowd, he has come out unscathed from a scary shunt.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez check on each other after Alonso’s car was reduced to a mangled wreck.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez check on each other after Alonso’s car was reduced to a mangled wreck. Photograph: Theo Karanikos/AP

Updated at 5.49am GMT

5.36am GMT

Lap 18 – The safety car is out with debris littered across the track, and the remaining cars are into the pits. The replay shows Alonso attempt a passing move on the Haas car which ripped his front left wheel off, propelled him into the wall and then through the air into the sand trap.

The race has been red flagged while the damage is recovered. The fact that he’s walking away from that is a big tick for car safety.

5.34am GMT

Major shunt!

Lap 17 – Fernando Alonso has absolutely destroyed his car in an incident with Esteban Gutierrez. He’s out of the car and ok at the famous Brundle corner but his car is upside down and a tangled mass of metal.

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain emerges from the wreck of his car after he collided with Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico.

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain emerges from the wreck of his car after he collided with Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico. Photograph: Theo Karanikos/AP

Updated at 5.48am GMT

5.32am GMT

Lap 16 – Vettel is back past Hamilton, giving him a buffer to Rosberg who now needs to get past his teammate to resume the chase. Kimi has come in at last, handing the lead back to Vettel, and Lewis is on the way in as well.

5.30am GMT

Lap 15 – I think by now we can probably be sure that Kvyat’s not going to be seen again, and if he leaves it too long watch out because the speed limits around these streets under normal circumstances are ruthlessly enforced.

Rosberg has the new fastest lap of the race, and it’s game on at the pointy end of the race.

Carlos Sainz has just nicked past Jenson Button for 9th.

5.29am GMT

Lap 14 – Vettel is under attack from Rosberg, whose lightning quick pit stop has put him right back in the fight. The gap between them is about 0.8 seconds, as they run third and fourth waiting for Raikkonen and Hamilton to pit.

5.27am GMT

Lap 13 – Rosberg’s quick pit-stop, with one of the team having to jump out of the way or be mowed down, allows him to get out just in front of Hulkenberg. His teammate Hamilton is on the radio with the discussion of a longer pit stop strategy, though he is starting to make ground on Verstappen.

Vettel is in!

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing turns ahead of Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda and Sergio Perez of Mexico.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing turns ahead of Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda and Sergio Perez of Mexico. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Updated at 5.33am GMT

5.26am GMT

Lap 12 – With not much happening at the front of the field we’re treated to a great battle for 11th between Palmer and Bottas. The Williams man eventually won the scrap but he had to work hard for it after some great defence from Palmer.

Rosberg is in!

5.25am GMT

Lap 11 – The scheduled pit stops are starting, with Felipe Nasr in but all the cards are in Ferrari’s favour at the moment.

5.23am GMT

Lap 10 – The lead is 2.5 seconds, while Lewis Hamilton has been on the radio to discuss his pit stop strategy given that he can’t get past Verstappen for love nor money.

5.22am GMT

Lap 9 – Verstappen has got Lewis covered so far, no wonder much of the pre-race talk was what top team he’d be at when his current contract expires.

Wehrlein in the Manor has done well to get up to 14th, but neither of the Haas cars are showing much form at the moment.

5.21am GMT

Lap 8 – Seb is holding court so far, with Sainz the first of the top 10 runners to go through the pits.

5.19am GMT

Lap 7 – Vettel retains his lead, while his teammate has nudged further in front of Rosberg. Hamilton is frustrated behind Verstappen but had a couple of looks and couldn’t risk trying to pass.

Red Bull are still working on Kvyat’s car, he’ll start a long way back if he does but it’s almost worth it just to take the curse off his Melbourne experience.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany leads teammate Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany leads teammate Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland. Photograph: Theo Karanikos/AP

Updated at 5.28am GMT

5.17am GMT

Lap 6 – Lewis is now gaining on Max Verstappen for 4th, but he’s still well behind the top three.

5.15am GMT

Lap 5 – Vettel’s lead is under two seconds as Rosberg draws to within half a second of Raikkonen in the battle for second.

5.14am GMT

Lap 4 – Lewis passes Massa to move up to 5th, but his dramas in traffic on the first turn have cost him. Vettel continues to lead as we’re treated to a repeat of practically the entire race until now rather than live pictures.

5.12am GMT

Lap 3 – Hamilton is fighting with Massa and Sainz for sixth. He’s all over Massa and it won’t be long until he gets past.

It was an inauspicious start for Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain at Albert Park.

It was an inauspicious start for Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain at Albert Park. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

Updated at 5.16am GMT

5.10am GMT

Lap 2 – Vettel continues to lead like days of old, pulling away from Kimi while Gutierrez’s Haas is having mechanical issues. Timing screens suggest Kvyat is out.

Meanwhile this is quite right:

5.09am GMT

Lap 1 – Vettel and Raikkonen lead with a dynamic start. Kevin Magnussen, another DNS in Melbourne last year, has a puncture and will be pitting shortly. Hamilton down to 6th!

5.08am GMT

First corner

Vettel leads! Throw your predictions out the window, it’s Ferrari 1 and 2 now. All other starters have remained on track.

5.06am GMT

Here he is, looking lonely at the back. We’re down to 57 laps now and if he does start it will be well after the rest of the field. We’re almost ready to go again.

5.04am GMT

Disaster for Kvyat in Melbourne a second year in a row! He’s stopped in the middle of the grid with the other cars ready to start. We’ve got another formation lap while his issues are sorted out.

He’ll have to start from pit-lane if they can restart the car, otherwise he will leave Melbourne full of fear and loathing.

Updated at 5.04am GMT

5.02am GMT

Cars are moving in the warm-up. The top eight are all on super soft tyres, with a mixture of super soft and soft. McLaren has split their strategy with Alonso on super and Button on soft.

4.53am GMT

Confirmation that there has been a relaxation of the rules about what teams can and cannot say to to their drivers during the race. This dropped an hour before the race, and now teams can give strategy information to the cars.

It’s a sensible change, and you wonder if yesterday’s qualifying debacle prompted the authorities to make a late, late change to try and avoid more bad publicity.

We’ve also had the traditional shot of an Australian man wearing a hat with corks hanging off it, so we must be right to start racing soon.

Updated at 4.54am GMT

4.44am GMT

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in pit lane, and when asked if he drove fast cars he replied “No, I drive tanks”. There’s an idea to add razzle dazzle to Saturday qualifying.

Sadly after he was such a hit last year he won’t be doing podium presentations today. Let’s hope he has a sudden change of mind and commandeers the microphone.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and F1 ambassador Britney Davis arrive at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and F1 ambassador Britney Davis arrive at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. Photograph: Brandon Malone/Reuters

Updated at 5.02am GMT

4.41am GMT

What chance the home victory Aussie fans have been pining for ever since Mark Webber piloted a Minardi into the points in 2002? Daniel Ricciardo will start from 8th, and he’ll certainly battle for points if not the podium but unless there’s some significant storylines at the front of the field it doesn’t look likely.

Meanwhile Jensen Button has just said that last year “racing” was his team’s weakness, which goes without saying based on results. They’re bang in the midfield this time, so it will be an interesting trial to see how far they’ve come in the off-season.

Red Bull Racing F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo (L) talks with former F1 driver Mark Webber at Albert Park.

Red Bull Racing F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo (L) talks with former F1 driver Mark Webber at Albert Park. Photograph: Brandon Malone/Reuters

Updated at 5.03am GMT

4.34am GMT

The teams are undergoing test starts from the pit lane to test the single-clutch starting method which has been enforced this year. They’ll have done hundreds, if not thousands, of similar trials during testing but it’s a last chance to make sure everything’s ok before it really becomes important. The F1 website has details of what the change means.

The cars are now on the track, and this is the point where cars started dropping out last year so don’t blink or you might miss an afternoon ending prematurely. We’re about 25 minutes away from the race.

Updated at 4.35am GMT

4.31am GMT

This is the 21st running of the race in Melbourne, and though its future remains one of those ‘break in case of emergency’ news stories the community passions which moved thousands of people to protest during the mid 90’s have all but disappeared.

My abiding memory of the first race, 14-years-old and high on F1 passion after years of being forced to watch on television, was changing spots shortly before the start of the race from the spot where Martin Brundle tipped his Jordan on the first lap. They say never meet your heroes, but as a Jordan fan it would have been quite a way to get close to that beautiful bright yellow car. I’ll be going for Renault today because of the happy memories evoked by their livery.

Some other ‘fun’ Albert Park facts to fill the time:

1) South Melbourne Football Club, briefly famous for taking on Manchester United in the first FIFA World Club Championship in 2000, play at a ground inside the circuit. They’re forced to play a series of away games while the park is occupied.

2) For the rest of the year while there’s no racing the pit buildings are used as a five-a-side football centre. I once saw the worst refereeing decision in history there – apply within for details.

4.23am GMT

The traditional driver line-up shot is live, and it’s all… err… looks of steely determination.

Who will end the afternoon shaking his fist in anger at a colleague?

Updated at 4.26am GMT

4.10am GMT

Welcome to a Melbourne for the first main event of what will be the longest Formula One season in history.

With 20 more races to follow before the year wraps in Abu Dhabi on 27 November there is much water to pass under the bridge but the title contenders will be keen to land important psychological blows on the streets of Albert Park.

After rain across the first three days of the event Melbourne has turned on a magnificent day, and with plenty of sun left in the afternoon the weather shouldn’t be a factor.

After qualifying on the front row of the grid the Mercedes cars remain red hot favourites, with bookies suggesting the only realistic alternative is Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton goes in as red hot favourite for the race, and the title, with qualifying times suggesting Nico Rosberg could be the only one to challenge him in an incident free race.

If they get through the first lap unscathed procession mode may be activated, but for now everything’s on the table so whether it’s very early in the morning, late at night or somewhere in the middle wherever you are stick around for our first 58 laps of live GP coverage this season.

What we know so far

Simon Hahn has put together this handy guide to ‘Everything you need to know about Formula 1 in 2016’ which covers the off-season rule changes. Don’t spend too much time on the bit about the new qualifying format though…

… because after receiving worse reviews than an Eddie Murphy film the hastily introduced new format looks like it will be lucky to make it to the second race in Bahrain.

Despite his team’s dominance Toto Wolff of Mercedes described it as “total rubbish” and the rest of the industry soon piled in as well, including several drivers who offered their own spin on the timeless “I’m not the kind of guy to say I told you so, but I told you so”.

Drivers were eliminated in the middle of hot laps, or while sitting in the garage after realising they didn’t have enough time to beat the drop. Fans in the stands had no idea what was going on, and those of us watching on television weren’t much better off. It was often only when you saw the man in the relegation zone giving up hope of surviving and vacating his car while the clock was ticking that you knew he was finished.

The end result still saw the best cars at the front of the grid, but as a spectator event it failed miserably to jazz up Saturday qualifying. Even if the system is not completely binned at the very least drivers must be allowed to finish laps they’d already started when the countdown expired. Here’s a free suggestion, give everyone adequate time to drive a few laps then order the grid from fastest to slowest time.

New faces

The excitement of the first race of the season is usually boosted by a number of drivers nervously beginning their F1 career. This year we’ve got three rookies and one brand new team.

In qualifying the best of the bunch was Renault’s Jolyon Palmer who was 14th fastest. The son of Jonathan becomes probably the most prominent holder of the name in motorsports since Captain Haddock irritant and president of the Vagabond Car Club Jolyon Wagg.

Next was Indonesia’s Rio Haryanto, who narrowly beat his Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein on the track but received a three place grid penalty for colliding with Roman Grosjean of Haas in pit-lane. Given that his teammate was the only man he’d finished in front of the penalty boiled down a swap of positions on the last row. Both Manor cars struggled, but simply getting on the grid is a significant step up from last year where they were in Melbourne but unable to start due to financial difficulties.

The Haas cars represent the first US backed tilt at F1 in three decades, and they had a difficult introduction to the circuit. Even when they weren’t being rammed by competitors the cars were eliminated immediately after the two Manor entrants. The team has suggested that they could have run as high as 14th if not for ‘tactical errors’ so if they’re right look for Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez to perform better under race conditions.

Here’s the final grid, taking into account Haryanto’s collision penalty and Valtteri Bottas losing five places after an unscheduled gearbox change:

1. Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Rosberg (Mercedes)
3. Vettel (Ferrari)
4. Raikkonen (Ferrari)
5. Verstappen (Toro Rosso)
6. Massa (Williams)
7. Sainz (Toro Rosso)
8. Ricciardo (Red Bull)
9. Perez (Force India)
10. Hulkenberg (Force India)
11. Alonso (McLaren)
12. Button (McLaren)
13. Palmer (Renault)
14. Magnussen (Renault)
15. Ericsson (Sauber)
16. Bottas (Williams)
17. Nasr (Sauber)
18. Kvyat (Red Bull)
19. Grosjean (Haas)
20. Gutierrez (Haas)
21. Wehrlein (Manor)
22. Haryanto (Manor)

Updated at 4.12am GMT

1.47am GMT

Adam will be with you shortly but in the meantime, check out our video guide to the Albert Park circuit.

Our guide to the Albert Park Formula One circuit.

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