Race report by: Road & Race, written by Mark Batchelder.


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F. I. A. Formula 1 World Championship – Rolex Australian Grand Prix Race Report.


The Albert Park Circuit is one of 4 street circuits on the 2015 F. I .A. Formula 1 calendar: the others being Monte Carlo (Monaco), Singapore, and Sochi (Russian Grand Prix). Melbourne is arguably the favourite opening race of the season amongst teams and drivers alike. For fans, teams, and drivers alike, the “offseason” seems to have lasted too long… It’s time to go racing again!

To start the season with a “fly-away” race, far from the technical support of the factory is never easy. For the spectators, it offers a pristine setting and an opportunity to savour all that is Formula 1.

The circuit is located around Albert Park Lake, south of the Central Business District of Melbourne. For a street circuit, the track has a smooth surface, making it fast and easy to drive. Certain corners can be tricky if it is windy, it can have the effect of unbalancing the car at a crucial moment.

The race has been well supported during the build-up week, with large crowds attending the free practice sessions and qualifying: including local dignitaries, celebrities, and even Oscar-winner Charlize Theron was spotted in the Ferrari garage.


Length: 5,303km

Turns: 16

Current Lap Record: Michael Schumacher – 2009 – Ferrari

Old Track Lap Record: Sir Stirling Moss – 1963

2014 Winner: Nico Rosberg – Mercedes


Lap 1

The installation laps are complete, and they delivered their fair amount of drama: Magnussen’s engine let go (there is oil on the racing line in Turn 3), Kvyat’s Torro Rosso had a gearbox issue and Bottas failed to take to the track with a back problem – which was quite apparent when he exited his Williams after qualifying yesterday.

The grid is a sea of colour, waves of activity as the drivers patiently wait. They are in their “zone”, eyes bedecked with determination peer through helmets over the noses of their cars. The buzzer sounds and the grid is cleared. The drivers set off on their warm-up lap… weaving to generate heat in the soft compound Pirelli tyres (that most have chosen); and rapidly accelerating and decelerating to generate heat in the ceramic brakes. The pole-sitter, Hamilton, slows up on the last section, to “back-up” the field; and thus ensure that the leaders sit on the grid for as little time as possible. The balance of the field forms up behind them.

There is a collective air of expectation… from those present at the Albert Park Circuit, and also the millions of television viewers around the globe. The stewards are satisfied and the 5 light sequence begins… one by one the lights go on… the sound of 15 F1 cars (Manor-Marussia team did not start, and we lost 3 cars during the installation laps – making this the smallest F1 grid since the 1969 Italian Grand Prix at Monza)) straining to be released is all that is heard. Can you imagine dropping your clutch on your average road car at 14 000 engine revolutions per minute?

In a flash the lights go out.

We are racing in Melbourne!

A great start from the pole-sitter Hamilton! Rosberg follows him into Turn 1, with Massa in third. There is carnage as the balance of the field pours in Turn 1: the two Ferrari’s almost touch, Sainz touches Raikkonen, and Maldonado is hit by a Sauber and retires.

The Safety Car is immediately deployed to give the marshals a chance to clear the debris off the track.

Ericsson pits.

Grosjean pits – and retires.

A disappointing start to the season for Lotus – both cars out on lap 1 – after their cars showed promise in qualifying.

Lap 2

The train of F1 cars snakes along behind the Safety Car, none of the leaders have taken the opportunity for a pit stop: it is still too early in the race.

Lap 3

The Safety Car will be in on this lap.

The Order on Lap 3 is as follows:

Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg, Massa, Vettel, Sainz, Nasr, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Hulkenberg.

Lap 4

Racing is under way again!

Nasr takes Sainz for 5th position.

Ricciardo takes Sainz for 6th position.

Perez is ordered by the race stewards to relinquish a position, for illegally overtaking under Safety Car conditions.

Lap 5

Hamilton is flying!

Lap 6

Race control confirms that DRS is now enabled.

Ricciardo is putting pressure on Nasr.

Lap 7

There is very close racing between 5th – 8th positions.

Perez has an off – he regains the track with no damage.

Raikkonen takes Sainz for 7th position – good move!

Lap 8

The Order on Lap 8 is as follows:

Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg (@2,304s), Massa (@6,701s), Vettel (@7,734s), Nasr (@13,389s), Ricciardo (@14,069s), Raikkonen (@14,590s), Sainz (@15,647s), Verstappen and Hulkenberg.

Lap 10

Raikkonen is catching Ricciardo.

Massa is holding up the cars behind him.

Lap 11

The Hamilton Rosberg gap is now at @1,2s.

Even at this early stage of the race, it is fair to say that the Mercedes car is the dominant package, and barring mechanical issues or accidents, one of their drivers should take the win.

Lap 12

There are only 13 cars still running.

Button is having a dreadful race in his McLaren Honda, completely off the pace, and Perez is now putting pressure on him for 12th position.

Lap 14

Perez makes slight contact with Button’s car. The young Mexican is not renowned for his patience when attempting passing manoeuvres.

Lap 15

Race control confirms that DRS is now disabled: to allow the brave marshals to collect debris on the track following the Button and Perez incident.

Lap 16

The Order on Lap 16 is as follows:

Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg (@2,0834s), Massa (@10,257s), Vettel (@11,847s), Nasr (@22,864s), Ricciardo (@24,091s), Raikkonen (@24,382s), Sainz (@28,367s), Verstappen (@33,723s) and Hulkenberg (36,304s).

None of the race leaders have pitted so far, who will blink first?

Lap 17

Ricciardo’s tyres are dropping off and his mirrors are full of red Ferrari.

Raikkonen pits – from 7th – re-joins 11th.

(Pit Lane time: 24,465s. Pit-stop time: 8,7s).

A slow stop as there is an issue with the left rear wheel nut.

The Ferrari race engineers have decided to pit Raikkonen before Ricciardo, in order to give Raikkonen the advantage.

Rosberg sets the fastest lap: 1:32:324

Lap 18

Hamilton is pushing hard ahead of his scheduled pit stop: he looks imperious out front.

The gap between 2nd placed Rosberg and 3rd placed Massa is now @9,805s.

Lap 19

Raikkonen sets the fastest lap: 1:31:960

Lap 20

Ricciardo is complaining to his race engineer that he is not happy with his car.

Lap 22

Massa pits – from 3rd – re-joins 6th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,062s. Pit-stop time: 3,0s).

Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:31:940

Even on worn tyres he is faster than his rivals, able to beat the time set by Raikkonen (Ferrari) on new tyres.

Hulkenberg pits – from 10th – re-joins 11th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,137s. Pit-stop time: 3,1s).

Lap 23

The Hamilton Rosberg gap is now at @3,5s.

Hamilton has put in a few stunning laps prior to his pit stop.

Vettel is charging: he is able to unleash the Ferrari now that Massa has pitted. Both Ferrari’s have shown good race pace so far – not enough to live with the Mercedes cars – but the signs are promising.

Massa is putting pressure on Ricciardo.

Lap 24

Ricciardo pits – from 5th – re-joins 10th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,535s. Pit-stop time: 3,4s).

Lap 25

Vettel pits – from 3rd – re-joins 4th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,694s. Pit-stop time: 3,6s).

Raikkonen takes Nasr.

Sainz pits – a slow stop as there is a problem with the left rear wheel nut.

Hamilton pits – from 1st – re-joins 2nd.

(Pit Lane time: 22,295s. Pit-stop time: 3,3s).

Lap 26

Nasr pits – from 4th – re-joins 8th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,933s. Pit-stop time: 3,2s).

Rosberg pits – from 1st – re-joins 2nd.

(Pit Lane time: 22,105s. Pit-stop time: 2,9s).

Lap 27

Raikkonen takes Verstappen for 5th position – a great move in the DRS zone.

Ericsson pits – from 7th – re-joins 13th.

(Pit Lane time: 23,264s. Pit-stop time: 3,8s).

Lap 28

Raikkonen sets the fastest lap: 1:31:681

Button pits – from 10th.

(Pit Lane time: 23,553s. Pit-stop time: 4,5s).

Ericsson out-brakes Perez into Turn 1 and takes him for 10th position – awesome move!

Lap 29

With the pit stops out the way (one stop strategy race for most of the teams), it is now a straight race to the finish for the leaders.

Lap 30

The Order on Lap 30 is as follows:

Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg (@3,682s), Vettel (@11,524s), Massa (@34,290s), Raikkonen, Verstappen, Nasr, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Ericsson.

Lap 31

Raikkonen sets the fastest lap: 1:31:585

The Ferrari’s pace is good; one wonders how close Vettel could’ve been to Rosberg by now, had he not been held up by Massa during the opening stint of the race.

Lap 32

Raikkonen is closing the gap to Massa.

Lap 33

Verstappen pits – from 6th – re-joins 9th.

(Pit Lane time: 23,522s. Pit-stop time: 4,3s).

Lap 34

The Hamilton Rosberg gap is now at @2,0s.

The pair is coming up to lap the first back markers.

Verstappen’s car is smoking… He retires and parks his car at the pit lane entry, in a fairly safe position, off the racing line.

Lap 35

Sainz is closing on Perez for 10th position.

Lap 37

Rosberg sets the fastest lap: 1:31:355

Sainz and Perez are having a fantastic scrap!

Lap 39

Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:31:143

The race leader appears to respond to any challenge from team mate Rosberg with infinite ease.

Ricciardo is closing on Nasr.

Lap 40

Perez pits – from 10th – re-joins 12th.

(Pit Lane time: 26,001s. Pit-stop time: 7,1s).

A slow stop leaves Perez fuming under his visor.

The Order on Lap 40 is as follows:

Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg (@2,462s), Vettel (@20,757s), Massa (@3,721s), Raikkonen (@3,998s), Nasr (@27,748s), Ricciardo (@0,549s), Hulkenberg (@23,041s), Ericsson (@11,934s) and Sainz (@23,447s).

Lap 41

There is a fairly substantial gap between the leading duo and 3rd placed Vettel.

Raikkonen pits – from 5th – re-joins 5th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,405s. Pit-stop time: 3,6s).

Raikkonen retires his car at Turn 4! There was an issue again with the left rear wheel nut – to be fair during the stop the mechanic did raise his hand to signal a problem – but the car was already leaving the pit box.

Lap 42

Race control confirms that DRS is now disabled – to give the marshals a chance to recover the stricken Ferrari.

Lap 43

Perez takes Button for 10th position – a good move into Turn 3.

Lap 44

The Hamilton Rosberg gap is now at @1,6s.

Ericsson goes off the track, skips through the gravel trap, and regains the track with no damage. A combination of driver error and worn tyres.

Lap 45

Ericsson pits – from 8th – re-joins 9th.

(Pit Lane time: 22,353s. Pit-stop time: 3,2s).

Lap 46

Hulkenberg pits – from 7th – re-joins 7th.

Massa is closing on Vettel.

Everyone up to 7th position has now been lapped by the leaders (Hamilton and Rosberg)!

Lap 47

There can only be one of two winners here: Hamilton or Rosberg.

Lap 48

Rosberg sets the fastest lap: 1:31:092

Lap 49

Ricciardo is catching Nasr.

Lap 50

Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:31:023

He is responding to the late charge from Rosberg.

The Hamilton Rosberg gap is now at @2,0s.

Massa is now only @2,5s behind Vettel – enough time to catch him and pass him before the finish?

Lap 51

Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:30:045

Lap 53

The Order on Lap 53 is as follows:

Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg (@1,648s), Vettel (@29,857s), Massa (@3,013s), Nasr (@44,283s), Ricciardo (@4,346s), Hulkenberg (@47,455s), Sainz (@14,371s), Ericsson (@0,455s) and Perez (@11,045s).

Lap 54

There is a great duel between Ericsson and Sainz as they scrap over 8th position.

Lap 55

The Hamilton Rosberg gap is now at @1,6s.

Lap 56

Ericsson takes Sainz for 8th position – a great dive up the inside under braking.

Lap 57

Hamilton laps Ricciardo (in 6th position) – rather embarrassing for the Red Bull Racing team.

Lap 58

Hamilton takes the win!

A dominant, flawless and imperious display from the current World Champion.

2. Rosberg
3. Vettel
4. Massa
5. Nasr
6. Ricciardo
7. Hulkenberg
8. Ericsson
9. Sainz
10. Perez

Retired: 11/15 starters finished the race. Grosjean and Maldonado retired after incidents on the opening lap, Verstappen’s engine blew and Raikkonen had an issue with the left rear wheel nut. Bottas failed to start due to a back injury, and we lost Kvyat and Magnussen on the installation laps. The Manor Marussia team did not make it to the grid.


A jubilant Hamilton gets out of his car in Parc ferme and salutes the crowd. He has won the race in a time of 1hr 31mins 54,067secs, over a distance of 307,524km with an average speed of 209,807km/h.

There is the almost obligatory track invasion by the crowd: the season opening race in Australia has been very well supported. The grid girls, looking resplendent in green, white and white hats line the way to the podium. Sir Jackie Stewart is on the podium and he presents some of the trophies.

The champagne ceremony is awesome! This is Formula 1!

Arnold Schwarzenegger conducts the driver interviews: the mood is jovial and a pleasure to watch. Hamilton jokingly says to him: “I thought you were taller man.” To which Arnie replies: “I’m not wearing my high he
els today.”

So, what have we learnt about the season ahead from the first race? The Mercedes team is once again the team to beat: their cars looked untouchable today. If I were to wager on the next World Champion, I would say Hamilton. He has that little bit extra speed over Rosberg, when he needs it. He has the crucial mental edge too. He is a racer, able to fight his way through a field. He has been quoted as saying he’s not here to defend his World Championship, he’s here to win it. Rosberg, by contrast, and take nothing away from him as he is an excellent driver, just doesn’t appear to have that same edge that Hamilton does. He needs the car to be “perfect” for him, and things to go his way, and then he can be very fast. Hamilton is street smarter.

Ferrari and Williams showed good race pace – they are not in a position to challenge for any championships, but I’m confident that they will each take a few wins this season. Ferrari has definitely taken a few steps forward over the winter and testing season: for a team that was reportedly in disarray, on its third team manager in 12 months, and not a single victory last year… The 2015 prediction was dire – yet the signs so far are nothing but positive.

Red Bull Racing did not have a good race, by their standards. Their car is off the pace. The team is very unhappy with the current rules, claiming it gives others an advantage. When they were winning races they did not say this… however the team management claim that they would say this even if they were winning races. They feel so strongly about this that there have been mumblings about Red Bull quitting Formula 1. Bernie Ecclestone has responded by saying that the rules make provision to change the regulations during a season. It will be interesting, going forward, to see what the outcome is. Mercedes are currently the dominant team, no doubt, but F1 fans want to see close racing, not one team romp away with it every season.

Sauber had a great race: after failing to score a single point last year, they finished with 2 cars in the top 10 this race. Perhaps blue is their colour.

Force India had a solid race too, with 2 cars finishing in the points.

Lotus had a poor race: after a decent qualifying effort both of their cars were out on lap 1. Still, their pace is not bad, and they should be able to mix it up in the midfield, possibly even better.

The McLaren gamble with their new engine supplier, Honda, has not paid off. Button languished at the back of the field almost the entire race, to his credit he kept trying under difficult circumstances. One feels it will take a season or two for Honda to catch up to the other engine manufacturers. Fernando Alonso must be pondering his decision to move to McLaren from Ferrari.

The Manor Marussia team failed to start the race – there may be severe repercussions for them from the F. I. A. governing body.

On a more positive note, there are some new exciting young guns that made their debuts. The likes of Nasr, Sainz, Verstappen and Ericsson have shown that they can mix it up with the big boys – and in time challenge them. The future of F1 with this calibre of talent looks bright.

The new Mercedes GT S AMG Safety car is a stunning piece of engineering: great looks and performance to match. I must be honest; I’m a huge fan of the previous Safety Car, the Mercedes SLS AMG – with its raw power and semi-retro looks and iconic gullwing doors; yet this new Mercedes is a great looking machine.


The next race is the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix, in Kuala Lumpur, on the 29th March 2015. It is a faster circuit – and should deliver some great racing – the heat and humidity as ever will be a factor. Hopefully by then all the current issues will be sorted, and we will see a full grid of 20 cars line up for the start.

Written by Mark Batchelder, Road and Race’s F1 Connoisseur

Twitter: @MBLex


1. Lewis Hamilton 25
2. Nico Rosberg 18
3. Sebastian Vettel 15
4. Felipe Massa 12
5. Felipe Nasr 10
6. Daniel Ricciardo 8
7. Nico Hulkenberg 6
8. Marcus Ericsson 4
9. Carlos Sainz 2
10. Sergio Perez 1


1. Mercedes 43
2. Ferrari 15
3. Sauber-Ferrari 14
4. Williams-Mercedes 12
5. RBR-Racing 8
6. Force India-Mercedes 7
7. Torro Rosso 2
8. McLaren-Honda 0

*Teams are drivers that did not participate in the race, or failed to finish the race, are not shown.


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