Scuderia Ferrari leaves Melbourne with 14 points in the bag – Alonso fifth, Raikkonen eighth – but with a clear sign there is plenty of work to do in the ten days before the action starts again for Round 2 in Malaysia.
As expected, Mercedes was the dominant force, with Nico Rosberg taking the win, the fourth of his F1 career. To the delight of the Aussie fans, Daniel Ricciardo finished second on his debut for Red Bull Racing, while the star performance of the day came from 21 year old Kevin Magnussen, third for McLaren on his maiden F1 outing. Electrical glitches on both F14 T and some tyre graining problems for Raikkonen meant the Prancing Horse was unable to show its true performance level in the first race of the season.
In the championships, the two Prancing Horse drivers are naturally where they finished today, while the team is fourth in the Constructors on 14 points.
It was a cool 19 degrees for the start, with a few rain clouds posing a threat that never materialised all afternoon. With a Marussia stuck on the grid, it took two starts to get the field away and in fact, the extra formation lap, combined with several laps spent behind the Safety Car meant that the anticipated need for drivers to slow and save fuel was less visible than expected.
After the lights went out, Fernando dropped one place to sixth but retook Hulkenberg to go fifth, while Kimi stormed up to eighth, lucky to survive being hit by Kobayashi’s Caterham at Turn 1. Hamilton made a bad start from pole so that Mercedes team mate Rosberg led, from Ricciardo in the Red Bull, with Magnussen up to third for McLaren. Fernando dropped behind the Force India again, held up in a duel with Vergne’s Toro Rosso, with Kimi behind the Frenchman. Kvyat and Bottas completed the top ten.
Hulkenberg was going to hold up Fernando all the way to the second pit stop, when the Ferrari managed to get out ahead of the Force India, by staying on track a lap longer, pitting on lap 34. Nearly the entire field had come in for their first tyre changes on lap 12, during the Safety Car period, after Bottas lost a wheel. In fact, this cost Kimi a bit of time, as he was briefly “queued” behind his team-mate. Button in the McLaren built his fourth place finish on those pit stops, being the first driver to come down pit lane for both tyre changes.
Going back to lap 3 and Kimi was seventh, passing Vergne, as Hamilton pitted the Mercedes to retire, so the Finn in the Ferrari was sixth behind his team- mate. Vettel the reigning world champion, retired the Red Bull in the pits on lap 6, after dropping down the order. Next time round, Bottas got his Williams ahead of Kimi’s F14T, relegating the Ferrari to seventh. Hulkenberg, Fernando and Bottas were nose to tail down the pit straight on lap 10, with the Finn having a look down the side of the Spaniard at one point, but the Williams man hit the wall, losing a rear wheel, which promoted Kimi back to sixth. He got up to fifth by lap 34, but he was again passed by fellow Finn Bottas. Kimi’s second stop came on lap 36, one lap after Fernando, which dropped him to ninth, which he improved to eighth by passing Vergne again.