Nico Rosberg wins F1 season-opener for Mercedes in Australia

Story highlights

  • Nico Rosberg wins F1 season-opener in Australia
  • Daniel Ricciardo finishes second but excluded
  • Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel retires early
  • Polesitter Lewis Hamilton also fails to finish

Germany's Nico Rosberg ushered in Formula One's new era with a dominant victory in the Australian Grand Prix Sunday as defending four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and polesitter Lewis Hamilton were forced to retire.

Rosberg finished 24.5 seconds clear of Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, with rookie Kevin Magnussen in third, the first Dane to occupy a podium spot at a grand prix.

But just hours after Australia's Ricciardo had celebrated a stunning debut for Red Bull in front of his home crowd, his dreams came crashing down.

Ricciardo was excluded following a decision by the FIA, the sport's governing body, that he had breached fuel consumption rules.

McLaren's Magnussen moved up to second and his teammate Jenson Button was promoted to third.

Red Bull said in a statement: "Inconsistencies with the FIA fuel flow meter have been prevalent all weekend up and down the pit lane.

"The team and (engine supplier) Renault are confident the fuel supplied to the engine is in full compliance with the regulations."

Ricciardo's teammate and world champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a sorry opening to the season.

The German slipped back through the field after starting from 12th on the grid, unable to engage full power in his car before pulling out on lap six of 57 at Albert Park in Melbourne.

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The same fate also befell Hamilton, who was passed by his Mercedes teammate Rosberg off the start and retired after only three laps.

A crash on the first corner saw Kamui Kobayashi's return to F1 with Caterham come to abrupt end, taking out an unhappy Felipe Massa in the Williams.

Massa's teammate Valtteri Bottas showed the car was competitive, charging through the field until he brushed the wall on the 10th lap.

Debris from the crash meant the safety car was deployed, although Finland's Bottas was able to recover to finish a fine sixth.

All the while the unflappable Rosberg was never under any serious challenge as he raced to his fourth career F1 victory.

He was quick to praise his team for giving him such a dominant car under the radical new regulations deployed for the 2014 season.

"What a car you have given me, what a car," he said on race radio as he celebrated.

Rosberg, whose father Keke won the 1982 world title, summed it up during the podium celebrations: "I took off from the start like a Silver Arrow and after that the car was really quick today."

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Outside the podium positions, Jenson Button underlined McLaren's early pace by finishing immediately behind his teammate Magnussen in fourth, with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso battling for fifth for Ferrari.

Bottas, who lost lost his right rear wheel in his earlier crash, was able to limp back to the pits for new tires and worked his way back again to claim three more points than Williams managed in the entire 2013 season.

Veteran Brazilian Massa may well have also been prominent, but was left fuming by Kobayashi's early antics which left both of them in the gravel.

Japan's Kobayashi immediately took to Twitter to apologize for "messing up" but Massa was calling for a "big penalty" over the incident.

Race officials later blamed the crash on a serious brake problem with the Caterham and said they would be taking no further action against the driver.

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On a day when up and coming stars such as Ricciardo and Magnussen were able to challenge the established F1 order, a new record was set by Daniil Kvyat of Russia.

His 10th spot for Toro Rosso meant at 19 year, 10 months and 18 days he became youngest driver to claim points in a grand prix, a mark previously held by Vettel.

Other points were taken by Nico Hulkenberg for Force India in seventh, with Kimi Raikkonen crossing eighth in his Ferrari and Jean-Eric Vergne in ninth, just ahead of teammate Kvyat.

McLaren has the early lead in the constructors' title after the sterling performances of Magnussen and former world champion Button.

Despite his early exit, Vettel took comfort from the performance of Ricciardo after Red Bull's early season testing had been blighted by difficulties.

"Although we have started on the back foot we have learned an awful lot, and when the package comes together we will be competitive," said the 26-year-old.

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Hamilton knows his Mercedes is capable of racing at the front of the grid, but warned that all the teams were grappling with the big changes to the cars.

"This is a new era, this is what is happening. You can't expect us all to finish the race without a few problems," said the Briton after his retirement.

A total of 14 drivers out of 22 were officially classified in the race results, but all the teams will be working frantically before the second round of the championship in Malaysia in a fortnight.