Monday, 21 March 2016

Ferrari strategy gaffe hands Rosberg win in Melbourne

Nico Rosberg won his second Australian Grand Prix in three years yesterday, heading home team mate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes picked up a record-breaking sixth consecutive one-two finish.

It wasn't straightforward for the German team however, with Ferrari dominating the early part of the race.

Despite locking out the front row of the grid, the Mercedes duo were passed at the start by the Ferrari pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who held the top two spots, ahead of Rosberg, Max Verstappen, and Felipe Massa who had leapfrogged pole-sitter Hamilton.

Strategy played a key part in the race at the front with Ferrari seemingly gambling with a two-stop strategy while Mercedes were looking to only pit once.

On Lap 17 the race was halted due to a frightening accident involving McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez of newcomers Haas. The crash saw Alonso flip through the gravel at turn three, ripping his car apart.

During the stoppage, Mercedes opted to change Rosberg onto the more durable medium tyre compound which would see him through to the end of the race. Ferrari meanwhile kept both of their drivers on the quicker super-soft tyre in the hope that they could build a gap to the Mercedes.

Once the race got back under way Kimi Raikkonen suffered what appeared to be a total engine failure, while Vettel was unable to maintain the gap to Rosberg, eventually yielding to his compatriot as he made his final pit stop.

During the stop, Hamilton also got by Vettel to leave Mercedes in first and second. Despite Vettel's efforts to close in on second placed Hamilton, the German couldn't get by the reigning champion, and a mistake with just two laps to go settled the result.

Rosberg crossed the line 8.6 seconds clear of Hamilton for his 15th career victory. Vettel held on for third with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo taking a fine fourth in front of his home crowd.

"The strategy was crucial today. So I’m really thankful. The team did a great job on that side as well. We are really strong in strategy amongst other things," said Rosberg after the race. "It was the tyre choice also on the red flag. I was glad to see that they were on the supersoft. I wasn’t sure that was going to be the case. I was happy that I was able to follow quite well with the medium. I was a bit concerned about the restart with the medium, that that tyre would be too cold but it worked out OK."

Felipe Massa finished fifth ahead of Romain Grosjean in the remaining Haas entry. The Frenchman used the red flag to his advantage, changing his tyres during the halting in proceedings to effectively run a non-stop race that elevated him from his 19th place starting position.

The points finish for Grosjean and Haas marked the first time a new team had finished their début race in the points since Mika Salo took sixth for Toyota at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix.

"This is an unbelievable feeling," said an ecstatic Grosjean afterwards. "The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day."

Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, and the quick Toro Rosso pairing of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen rounded out the top ten.

Renault fared reasonably well on their return to Formula One as a constructor with rookie Jolyon Palmer finishing in 11th, one place ahead of Kevin Magnussen who finished his début Grand Prix in Melbourne on the podium two seasons ago.

The field's other rookies, the Manor duo of Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto, did not have as good a race with Wehrlein finishing a lap down in 16th as the final runner while Haryanto retired.

Other retirements included Marcus Ericsson and Daniil Kvyat - The Russian failed to even make the start of the race due to an electrical issue.

Images: Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Haas F1 Team

No comments:

Post a Comment