Nico Rosberg left the field for dead at the first grand prix of Formula One’s new turbo era, leading Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to the chequered flag by 24.5s on a day when Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel failed to make the finish.
Mercedes’ display of strength sent a clear message to its rivals letting them know that they will be a force this year. However the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton retired on lap three when one of his engine’s six cylinders gave up. It was a reminder that reliability will be as important as outright pace this year. Vettel was struggling with engine problems as early as the warm-up lap and parked his Red Bull on lap four, getting his title defence off to a stuttering start.
Nevertheless, Ricciardo’s second place will represent a significant victory for Red Bull, which had not completed a race distance at any point during pre-season testing. However Ricciardo is now under investigation by the stewards for exceeded the maximum fuel flow allowed under the regulations.
“During the race car number 03 exceeded consistently the maximum allowed fuel flow of 100 kg/h,” read a statement issued by FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer. “As this is not in compliance with Article 5.1.4 of the 2014 Formula One Technical Regulations, I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”
Kevin Magnussen kicked his F1 career off to an impressive start with a third place finish ahead of McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who fought through the field from tenth on the grid. The controversial decision has paid off for McLaren and can now show why the move was made to put Magnussen in the hot seat this year.
Fernando Alonso finished fifth, underlining the hard work Ferrari has ahead of it with its new car but also limiting the damage to his points tally at this early stage of the season. Valtteri Bottas was among the quickest drivers on the track for much of the race but ruined his chances of a podium on lap 10 when he touched the wall and suffered a puncture at Turn 9. He recovered to finish sixth, but there is little doubt Williams has yet to show its potential.
Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who struggled under braking all afternoon. The final points on offer went to the two Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.