Vettel starts well, Rosberg, Hamilton reclaim F1 season-opener | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 20.03.2016
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Vettel starts well, Rosberg, Hamilton reclaim F1 season-opener

Sebastian Vettel leapt off the line into the lead, while the Mercedes faltered at Melbourne's Australian Grand Prix. But Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton recovered to finish first and second, followed by Vettel's Ferrari.

Nico Rosberg continued his winning run from the end of 2015 at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, winning the 57-lap race ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

"Yeah! Awesome, guys, awesome. Great start to the season," Rosberg yelled down the team radio after crossing the line to claim the first 25 points of the 2016 season.

Sebastian Vettel, who blasted by the Silver Arrows off the line, had to settle for third position in the end. He was pressuring Hamilton for second in the closing laps, but ran wide late on, ending his push to split the Mercedes at Albert Park.

Australien Melbourne Formel 1 Start

Vettel's getaway was perfect while both Mercedes struggled to get off the start line

Vettel's early advantage - especially over Hamilton, who dropped down to seventh place from pole position - was eroded at around the one-third mark. A huge crash involving McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Haas F1's Esteban Gutierrez led to the race being stopped for around a quarter of an hour - cancelling out the early lead Vettel had built on track.

Australien Melbourne Formel 1 Start Crash Alonso

Alonso walked away from a crash that decimated his car

Alonso had sought to overtake Gutierrez around the outside into Turn 3, but caught the rear end of the Haas, launching himself into the wall. The Spaniard was quickly out of his crumpled car, despite the dramatic-looking damage.

"It was a scary moment, a scary crash," Alonso said after getting the medical all-clear. "For the safety of those cars is why I'm alive - and the safety wall. I think it was a racing thing and sometimes we forget we are going 300 kilometers an hour."

Mercedes one-stop, as new tires show longevity

Vettel lost his running-mate Kimi Räikkönen early on, with the Finn pulling into the pits with his Ferrari engine in flames. This put Nico Rosberg on his countryman's tail, but Lewis Hamilton's difficult first lap left him back in seventh. He quickly climbed to fifth but was then frustrated behind Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso. Hamilton later said that a light collision with Rosberg at the first corner better explained his poor opening lap than the wheel-spinning getaway.

"The actual start wasn't shocking, wasn't the worst, it was at turn one when Nico ran me off. I lost most ground then but I'm just grateful I was able to recover," the reigning champion said after the race.

After the restart, Vettel retained his lead and continued to keep Nico Rosberg in check. However, it soon emerged that the Ferrari might be on a different strategy to the Mercedes.

In Vettel's first stop, he elected a second set of super-soft tires, meaning he was obliged to stop at least once more to run a different compound of rubber. The Mercedes, however, took the harder medium tire compound for their second stints - meaning they could run to the end if the tires survived the distance.

Neither Hamilton nor Rosberg would stop again, meaning that Vettel dropped from the lead to third position on making his second pit stop. Despite some fast early laps on fresh boots, Vettel only gradually hauled in Hamilton in second, then ran wide and lost his chance for a last-gasp bid to pass.

'This is like a win' - sixth on debut for Haas F1

Home favorite Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull, with Williams' Felipe Massa fifth.

Next up, however, came a finish few could have predicted. Romain Grosjean, driving the sole remaining Haas car after Gutierrez and Alonso crashed, placed sixth on the US outfit's very first F1 race.

"Guys, listen to me. This is a win for us. This is just like a win for us," Grosjean, audibly overjoyed, said over the team radio. "I don't even know where I finished!"

Angry Verstappen collides with teammate

Force India's Nico Hülkenberg led the train of cars seeking to attack Grosjean, with the second Williams of Valtteri Bottas next in line in eighth.

The final two points-paying positions went to Toro Rosso, who might have hoped for more based on their performance in qualifying and the early laps in Melbourne.

Teenager Max Verstappen had run in fourth early in the race, and clearly became upset that pit strategy later placed him behind his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. late in the race, believing he was faster than the Spaniard, Verstappen, angrily radioed in to his team - calling it a "joke" (he prefaced this with an adjective we cannot print) that he was stuck behind Sainz.

A couple of laps later, Verstappen sought to take matters into his own hands and pass Sainz at the lap's penultimate corner; the pair collided and Verstappen spun, but both were able to continue despite the contact.

2016 drivers' championship standings (21-race season)

Rosberg 25
Hamilton 18
Vettel 15
Ricciardo 12
Massa 10
Grosjean 8
Hülkenberg 6
Bottas 4
Sainz 2
Verstappen 1