MELBOURNE: Nico Rosberg opened Formula One’s new era with a dominant victory at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday as world champion Sebastian Vettel and pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton were early casualties.
Rosberg, whose Mercedes team has come out strongest with the sport’s new hybrid technology, led from start to finish and took the chequered flag 24.5 seconds ahead of Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull debut.
And there was a brilliant third place in his Formula One debut for McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, 21, who became the first Danish driver ever to reach the podium.
McLaren’s Jenson Button and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished fourth and fifth, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
But there was no joy for Vettel, the four-time defending world champion, and Mercedes’ 2008 winner Hamilton, who both retired early as this year’s widespread mechanical changes took their toll.
Formula One has switched to quieter, turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 engines this year with hybrid components that will help them to keep within a newly introduced fuel cap of 100 kilos (about 135 litres).
At the start, Rosberg swept to the front from third off the grid and he safely held Ricciardo at bay by 24.5 seconds to give Mercedes the first win of the season.
“I took off from the start like a Silver Arrow and after that the car was really quick today,” said Rosberg, whose father, Keke, won the 1982 world championship.
It was Rosberg’s fourth GP win and his first since Silverstone last year.