While the new qualifying system is gone already, one of the other major changes helped spice things up as Mercedes used a long run strategy to snatch victory away from Vettel and Ferrari after both Ferrari drivers had got the jump on their Mercedes rivals from lights out. Seb took the lead off the line and Kimi would follow him through as the Mercedes duo fell over each other in the first corner, but strategy and a red flag following a huge shunt involving Fernando Alonso would shift the balance back in favour of the Silver Arrows.
After a disastrous start Hamilton switched to mediums on his first pitstop. Rosberg would choose softs while both Ferraris went for SuperSofts. Here was where the metronomic pace Mercedes showed on the Medium compound would rescue Hamilton’s race. Ferrari failed to change their strategy following the red flag on lap 19. Rosberg used the red flag to swap to mediums. It was a decision that would ultimately win him the race.
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Soy consciente de que hoy he gastado una de las vidas que me quedaban, quiero dar las gracias a @mclaren , FIA por la seguridad actual de los monoplazas. A mis compañeros y a los aficionados por la preocupación mostrada y apoyo incondicional. Ahora a recuperarse y pensar en Bahréin, y subirme al coche para conseguir los primeros puntos!! 💪💪 I am aware that today I spent some of the luck remaining in life, I want to thank @mclaren, the FIA for the safety on this cars. Also my colleagues and fans for the concern and unconditional support. Now it's time to rest and think about Bahrain, and get back in the car to get the first points of this year !! 💪💪 #australia
Vettel and Raikkonen lead away on the restart but the Finn would retire shortly after with a fire bellowing from the airbox of his Ferrari and a mistake from Vettel while challenging Hamilton for 2nd would halt his progress.
Outside of the battle for the lead, Daniel Ricciardo had an impressive drive for Red Bull as he climbed to 4th but it was Romain Grosjean and HAAS who had a dream start to 2016. Pitting under safety car allowed the Frenchman to leap ahead of the midfield battle to take a very impressive points finish on the team’s debut.
Further down the field Toro Rosso showed us a glimpse that if there is a team rivalry to watch then it is that of the one between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr as both drivers collided while trying to challenge Valtteri Bottas in the Williams. Verstappen was less than impressed that he wasn’t pitted ahead of Sainz.
An exciting race. One that highlighted that you don’t need gimmicks to fix Formula 1, just more competition for Mercedes and some genuine racing spread across the field.
Nico Rosberg won, with three compounds available per race and teams allowed a large element of choice in their allocations. Eight drivers used all three compounds available, in a race that was characterised by a red flag stoppage after 18 laps. A variety of strategic choices – which was the intention of the new regulations – were possible at the re-start, with Mercedes and Ferrari notably opting for opposite tactics. Nonetheless, the top three were separated by less than 10 seconds at the finish: underlining the closeness of the competition under the latest tyre rules.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “The grand prix started and ended with a tactical tyre battle, but a red flag after 18 laps reset the race, giving it a very different complexion with tyre changes allowed. After starting with the same used supersoft compounds, Ferrari and Mercedes chose opposite strategies in the second part of the race, with Mercedes running two-thirds of the total distance on the medium tyre but closely challenged by Vettel on the soft. This goes to show how the new regulations have helped to open up a number of different approaches to strategy, with nine of the 16 finishers taking advantage of all three compounds on offer and five completely different strategies covering the top six places. As well as the expected battle at the front, Romain Grosjean finished an excellent sixth for the Haas team on its debut by effectively not making a pit stop at all: instead swapping from soft to medium during the restart, which was an inspired decision. The same strategy was used by Valtteri Bottas”.
Truthometer: We predicted a two-stop strategy as being fastest, starting on supersoft and then switching to soft on laps 16 and 37. Instead, also due to the red flag, Rosberg won after starting on supersoft and then changing to medium during the restart. Hamilton used the same strategy, pitting before the red flag.