Nico Rosberg claimed a well-earned victory and a perfect start to his determined bid for a first world drivers’ title on Sunday when he won a spectacular, exciting and both incident- and drama-laden 2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old German came home first ahead of his Mercedes team-mate defending drivers’ world champion Lewis Hamilton with four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel finishing third for Ferrari.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull Racing in a contest interrupted — and suspended for 20 minutes — by the first red flag at the Albert Park Circuit in 21 years since the Australian race came to Melbourne in 1996.
The suspension came after 18 laps when two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, in a McLaren Honda, collided with Mexican Esteban Gutierrez of the new Haas Ferrari team.
Alonso’s car flew off track, hit the barriers and rebounded and rolled high into a gravel trap. His car was destroyed, but both men were unhurt in the crash, Alonso waving to the fans as he walked away.
Rosberg’s win was his second in Melbourne, following his triumph in 2014, and the 15th of his career. “It's been a great weekend,” he said. “The car has been unreal and to beat the Ferraris is just great. I'm super excited…"
Behind Ricciardo, Brazilian Felipe Massa took fifth place for Williams ahead of a superb sixth place for Frenchman Romain Grosjean on his debut with the new American Haas team.
German Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh for Force India ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams and Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who held off his frustrated Toro Rosso team-mate Dutch teenager Max Verstappen to take ninth.