F1: Rosberg sets the early pace after dramatic season opener down under

The 2016 FIA F1 World Championship exploded into life in Australia at the weekend. Nico Rosberg (right) leads at the start of Sunday's opening race in Melbourne
The 2016 FIA F1 World Championship exploded into life in Australia at the weekend. Nico Rosberg (right) leads at the start of Sunday's opening race in Melbourne

Nico Rosberg beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton to victory in a thrilling season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday as the Brackley-based Mercedes team picked up from where they left off last season.

In an incident-packed race, things initially looked bleak for the Mercedes duo who were both slow away from the start, leaving Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to take advantage.

Ferrari looked to have pulled a masterstroke over the reigning world champions but when Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez crashed, it brought a red-flag and a brief halt to proceedings.

Fortunately, Alonso and Gutierrez were both unscathed and when the race resumed, Rosberg gained the upper hand as the 2015 runner-up began to look strong in the lead and he calmly drove to claim the first victory of the 2016 campaign.

After claiming the top spot in qualifying, Hamilton didn’t enjoy the best of races but regained his composure to power back through and take second spot, completing a one-two for his team, with Vettel third.

After the race, Rosberg said: “This is a great start to the season. To win the first race, I have been able to carry on from where I left off at the end of 2015.

“I would like to thank the whole team for their hard work and to start with a win is a great feeling.”

Hamilton added: “I managed to salvage good points despite having some issues. I believe we are strong and there are plenty of races remaining to score points.

“I managed to do well here on a day that was not the best for me, so I am leaving Australia a happy man.”

Nico Hulkenberg finished the race seventh for the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team.

The Mercedes-powered driver saw his own strategy damaged due to the race stoppage, a stop that also harmed the prospects of his Force India team-mate, Sergio Perez who finished up out of the points.

Hulkenberg said: “I am happy to have scored points here in Australia and get myself on the scoreboard. I am looking forward to the next race and being able to challenge for a top six finish.”

The Bicester-based Toro Rosso squad were one of three manufacturers to see both of their cars finish inside the top ten.

Strong qualifying performances from Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. placed the Red Bull-owned team in a good position for the race.

Sainz moved ahead of this team-mate, and crossed the line at the end of the race in ninth with Verstappen claiming tenth as the flag fell.

Next race: Bahrain, April 3.