Rosberg wins Aussie GP

Source:Reuters Published: 2016-3-20 23:08:01

Alonso ‘lucky’ to be alive after huge crash down under

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg celebrates his victory in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday. Photo: IC

Nico Rosberg won a dramatic Australian Grand Prix on Sunday after a bungled tire strategy dashed Sebastian Vettel's chances of a season-opening triumph and Fernando Alonso survived a spectacular crash that left his McLaren wrecked.

Rosberg's 15th Formula One victory was also his fourth in succession after the ­German Mercedes driver won the final three races of last season.

Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton battled back to secure a Mercedes one-two after the defending world champion recovered from a chaotic start that pushed him back to sixth at the first turn to finish 8 seconds behind his team mate.

Four-time world champion Vettel came third for Ferrari after leading for much of the race, but the German's victory hopes ­faded with an aggressive tire strategy that fell flat ­after the race was halted due to Alonso's crash.

Ferrari enjoyed a brilliant start, with Vettel able to carve through the front row occupying Mercedes duo on the run to the first turn.

His Finnish teammate Kimi Raikkonen also got off to a flyer and he darted up the side to claim second place as Rosberg's rear left tire made contact with Hamilton's front wing.

Vettel appeared poised for an unlikely win but the race turned on its head when Alonso crashed into Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez at high speed going into Turn 3 of the 18th lap.

The Spaniard's car careened into a barrier and was smashed to pieces before it flipped, rolled and flew end-over-end into another ­barrier.

Alonso walked away from the wreckage but the red flag came out to halt the race for around 10 minutes as track staff swept away debris and repaired the barriers.

During the break, Mercedes opted to run both cars on medium compound tires and rode them to the finish, while Ferrari took the more aggressive route, sticking with their super-softs, which were quicker but ultimately required another stop.

The mistake proved costly and was compounded when Vettel's next tire change was botched, while Raikkonen's race was over on Lap 23 when an engine failure forced him out and he reached the pits with flames shooting out of the top of his car.

New team Haas, the first American-­owned F1 outfit to race in 30 years, celebrated points on ­debut, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean finishing sixth behind Red Bull's fourth-placed Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa in a Williams.

Alonso felt lucky to be alive ­after walking away from the crash.

"I'm OK, I'm trying to put ­everything in place again," the 34-year-old told Sky Sports in the ­paddock after Rosberg won the race.

"It was a scary crash. Lucky to be here and happy to be here, and thankful to be here - especially to the [governing body] FIA and all the safety, thanks to that probably I'm alive."

Race control said Alonso's contact with Gutierrez would be investigated but the ­Spaniard said neither driver was to blame.

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