Nico Rosberg won an action packed 2016 Australian Grand Prix ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton to give the perfect start to the reigning world champions after Ferrari's tyre strategy and a red flag robbed Sebastian Vettel of a possible victory. The German had to settle for the third place after the Maranello-based outfit were caught by surprise when the Mercedes cars switched to the medium compound tyres making it a one-stop race for them to Ferrari's two.
Daniel Ricciardo gave the home fans something to cheer about with a well-driven fourth place finish and the fastest lap of the race, much more than Christian Horner expected coming into the first race of the season. The Williams of Felipe Massa was in the fifth place, ahead of an emotional Romain Grosjean, who came home in sixth in his first race for debutants Haas Racing. Nico Hulkenburg, Valterri Bottas and the two Toro Rosso cars of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen, who had a massive battle between them, and a slight collision rounded off the top ten.
It was a great start to the race and Vettel was quick out of the box to take the lead into the first corner, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn took advantage of the battling Mercedes duo. Rosberg was third, but Hamilton lost a whole host of places and was down in the sixth place at the end of the first lap. The four-time world champion looked comfortable at the front until the race was stopped on lap 19 owing to a massive crash involving Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez in the previous lap.
Hamilton, who was struggling to get past the Toro Rosso cars on the super-soft tyres decided to go on to the much harder medium compound tyre just before the race was stopped and continued with the same on resumption. The Briton's teammate also copied the strategy, which meant they were good to go until the end of the race having used two different compounds.
The Ferrari's, meanwhile, chose to remain on the super-soft compound tyres, which Vettel admitted was a 'mistake' during his post-race interview on the podium, as they had to stop again leaving him too much ground to make up on the two Mercedes cars. Raikkonen was also on a similar strategy with regards to his teammate, but suffered an engine failure before he could make his final stop.
The drive of the day, however, goes to Grosjean, who drove a composed race to bring home eight points for debutants Haas Racing as the Frenchman finished in the sixth place. They had lost Gutierrez's car in the crash, but made a great strategy call on the other car and fended off the much more fancied Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso's to claim their first points of the season.
The title challengers from Italy can take positives out of the race as it showed that they are capable of battling the Mercedes cars. They pushed them until the end, after Vettel closed in on Hamilton in the final laps only for a mistake on the final turn with two laps to go stopping him from trying to take the second place. The battle between the two teams will give hope that it could be a much more competitive season compared to last year.