The original start was aborted when Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull broke down on the approach to the grid.
It started with Vettel majestically scything his way between front-row duo Hamilton and Rosberg to take the lead into the first corner. Behind the four-time champion, Rosberg edged Hamilton wide at Turn 1, and doing so allowed Raikkonen to nip through on the inside to claim second.
Hamilton was relegated to sixth behind not only the Ferraris and Rosberg, but also Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa’s Williams.
It took four laps for Hamilton to overtake the Williams, and though soon up behind Verstappen he was unable to get close enough to pass, which allowed the leading trio to pull away by the first round of stops.
At the second attempt, Hamilton got a slow launch away from pole allowing Vettel to lead, as Rosberg locked up at the first corner and ran wide. This forced Hamilton wide too at Turn 1, and his front wing was clipped by Rosberg’s left-front wheel, their loss of momentum allowing Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari to jump to second as Hamilton slumped to sixth.
Vettel led Raikkonen by 1.5s at the end of the opening lap, with Rosberg third from Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and the Williams of Felipe Massa. Hamilton ran sixth from Carlos Sainz’s STR, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg passing Ricciardo for eighth on the opening tour.
Hamilton passed Massa for fifth between Turns 3 and 4, just after they lapped Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, and Ricciardo repassed Hulkenberg for eighth. Ricciardo chased down and passed Massa into Turn 1 on lap 11. Massa pitted on the following tour.
Hamilton got stuck behind fourth-placed Verstappen, complaining “I can’t get past this guy” and suggesting “we gotta switch our strategy”.
Rosberg pitted on lap 12, switching to the soft tyres, and almost banged wheels with Hulkenberg as he rejoined.
Vettel pitted a lap later for supersofts. A flying Rosberg was right on his tail as he returned to the track, causing him to defend stoutly into Turn 3.
Raikkonen stayed out but was complaining that his front tyres were “really suffering” as he led Hamilton by 12s.
Vettel unleashed his supersoft pace, caught Hamilton and passed him around the outside of Turn 2, while Rosberg briefly got caught behind his Mercedes teammate on a different strategy.
Raikkonen pitted on lap 16 for supersofts, as Hamilton went for the medium-compound tyre.
Huge crash suspends racing
The race was brought to a shuddering halt by a huge shunt between Gutierrez and Alonso at Turn 3 on lap 17.
Alonso’s right-front wheel clipped Gutierrez’s left-rear and slammed the wall hard before being launched into a series of rolls by the gravel trap and hitting the barrier again. Gutierrez’s car spun harmlessly into the gravel.
Alonso staggered away from his shattered car, but appeared unhurt as he walked to the medical car.
Gutierrez reported an engine problem on the opening lap, and was running 19th at the time of the shunt. He immediately asked: “Is [Alonso] OK?”
The race was red flagged while the huge debris field was cleared. This allowed Hamilton to change his front wing, which had incurred some slight damage in his first-corner contact with Rosberg.
Ricciardo claimed fourth, followed by Massa, with Romain Grosjean scoring points for Haas on its debut, the first new team to do so since Toyota with Mika Salo in 2002.
Grosjean benefited from being able to make his sole tyre change under the red flag, meaning he effectively completed the race without pitting.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was seventh, followed by Valtteri Bottas for Williams, both unable to pass Grosjean despite following the Haas for half the race.
Sainz and Verstappen caught this group after their pitstops, and had a minor clash near the end that resulted in a spin for Verstappen.
Neither Renault scored on the works team’s return – Jolyon Palmer 11th and Kevin Magnussen 12th after a first-lap puncture.
For the second successive year in Melbourne Daniil Kvyat retired before the start, with the Russian’s Red Bull grinding to a halt just behind the safety car as the grid formed.
RESULTS – 57 LAPS
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||34.330s|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m14.199s|
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m15.680s|
|10||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m16.833s|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m31.699s|
|14||Jenson Button||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|15||Felipe Nasr||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|16||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|–||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||Not started|