Australian Grand Prix 2015
Formula One is back! Controversy reigned supreme in Melbourne, with bailiffs waiting outside the paddock for Sauber, only for Giedo van der Garde to back down a few hours before qualifying. Similarly, Alonso's mysterious Barcelona accident left him waiting in the wings while Magnussen sat in the lead McLaren – which he promptly put in the wall on Friday.
Manor made it to Melbourne against all the odds but were sadly unable to solve every flaw in the cars they assembled at the last minute and failed to make it on track all weekend. Nonetheless they have done an incredible job to put the cars and team together and deserve every bit of credit they are getting for just being on the right side of the world.
Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull were the first to suffer with the engine limit, an engine dying on Friday afternoon before the Australian #3 was able to turn a wheel in anger. Similarly Felipe Massa had a coolant leak but the team managed to salvage the Power Unit.
Red Bull added to their woes with a fire taking out the wiring loom of Kvyat's car.
Pirelli brought with them the Soft and Medium tyres, with predictions saying the former compound in Q3 would give Mercedes almost three quarters of a second over the rest of the field.
With 2 minutes of Q1 to go, Verstappen went 3rd overall behind the Mercedes pair. Maybe that will have silenced a few of his critics, as Sainz sat 6th with Vettel and Grosjean between them. Massa deposed the Toro Rosso but only by two thousandths of a second. Kvyat, meanwhile, put a single lap in to go provisional 12th.
Magnussen fell 18th and last, Button joining his teammate on what becomes the back row of the grid. Ericsson also fell, but Sauber's only Q1 faller could at least take solace in beating a world champion and his closely matched teammate.
Perez and Hulkenberg sat 15th and 14th after Q2, Kvyat just ahead. Verstappen qualified 12th, Nasr less than a tenth from a place in Q3 after briefly being as high a 7th in the dying moments.
Christian Horner reported poor handling of the RB11 in slow speed corners, while Rosberg and Bottas both had to bail on their first timed lap due to a strange problem for the former at T15, and a big wobble out of T2 for the latter.
Bottas slotted in behind the Ferraris after another huge moment, this time out of T16 with DRS wide open. Hamilton took pole from Rosberg, Massa, Vettel, Raikkonen and Bottas. Ricciardo took the targeted 7th alongside Sainz in the Toro Rosso. Grosjean pipped Maldonado to 9th as Lotus locked out the 5th row.
Bottas seemed to have jarred his back in Q1, which may have explained the Ferrari pair splitting him from teammate Massa. Nonetheless Massa deserves no less credit for a decent P3 lap. The Brazilian would be the only Williams driver to start the race, Bottas failing to pass one of the FIA's emergency cockpit exit tests. Kevin Magnussen then had a spectacular blowout on his outlap once the pit lane opened, while Kvyat's Red Bull suffered hydraulic failure.
Maldonado made it through two corners before Nasr's Sauber bounced off Raikkonen's poor-starting Ferrari and took out the Lotus. The Virtual Safety Car served its purpose very well on its first race-day usage. Sadly for Lotus, Grosjean too retired after pitting.
On the restart Nasr pulled a move on Sainz for 5th – Sauber apparently running a stronger car than in 2014.
Perez had to yield 11th to Ericsson, except Button had got between them and both would have to be let through. Ericsson soon took back 11th place, compounding McLaren's woeful weekend.
Sainz seemed to have some sort of power issues, losing out on another couple of places shortly after.
Perez took a heavy whack from Button who turned in as if he wasn't there.
Raikkonen pitted at the end of lap 16, the first car to bail. He stayed on the softs.
Massa pitted for mediums on lap 21, as did Hulkenberg. Ricciardo made the same call soon after, releasing Massa as Vettel was called to pit, almost exactly the magic 24 seconds ahead of the Williams he was trying to jump. Vettel stopped on lap 24 and made the jump as he took mediums. Sainz made the same call at the same time and the wheelgun failed on the left rear.
Hamilton pitted for mediums on lap 26, releasing Rosberg to lead for a lap before his own stop for the same tyre.
Ericsson pitted again for his second set of softs, falling into the battle for 10th. Sainz was way way back in last by now. Button pitted around the halfway mark for a second set of mediums. Ericsson promptly mugged Perez for 10th as if the Force India wasn't even there. Behind them, Button was now behind Sainz. Ericsson was then told he had to go to the end on the softs – a 30-lap undertaking.
Verstappen reported “smoke in the car” just past the halfway point. Within a lap his points-paying finish was gone in a puff of smoke. To his credit he did manage to park the car such that he didn't even bring out a yellow flag.
Raikkonen pitted for mediums then parked after only 4 corners. He did have problems in the stop with the rear left corner and it looked like the wheel wasn't seated properly. Slam-dunk unsafe release.
Ericsson flat-spotted his softs and had to change to another yellow set, dropping to 9th behind Sainz.
Button reported downshift problems as he continued to run 11th and last. One more retirement was all it would take for a McLaren-Honda debut point, but the MP4-30 seemed determined to not make the flag.
Ericsson stole 8th from Sainz with 3 laps to go, sparks flying as the Sauber bottomed out. It's fair to say the titanium skid plates did their job in Australia.
Lewis Hamilton pulled off a masterful lights-to-flag win, pit stop lap aside, followed home by Nico Rosberg. Mercedes dominated as they did in the course of 2014. Vettel took 3rd for Ferrari ahead of Massa's Williams and, amazingly, Nasr's Sauber. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were the only cars who could split Ericsson's Sauber from his teammate, Sainz 9th in the ailing Toro Rosso ahead of Perez in the battered Force India. Jenson Button was the only finishing driver to not score points. Raikkonen was at the head of the retirees, followed by Verstappen, Grosjean and Maldonado. Bottas, Kvyat and Magnussen failed to make it to the grid while Manor were called to the stewards to clarify their situation.
Manor and Raikkonen both head to Malaysia with no penalties.