Mercedes’ Mastery in Melbourne: The 2016 Australian Grand Prix!

F1 is back! It’s been a long wait since Nico Rosberg clinched victory in Abu Dhabi back in November but on Sunday the feisty German carried on where he left off, beating teammate Lewis Hamilton into second to clinch victory and if this race is anything to go by, 2016 is set to be the most exciting F1 season yet!

Lewis Takes the Chequered Flag in 2015...

Lewis Takes the Chequered Flag in 2015...

To recap last year’s race, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton clinched the first of 10 race wins on his way to a third world championship with a narrow 1.36 second win over his increasingly bitter rival Nico Rosberg. It was a pattern that was to repeat itself many times over the 2015 season, while Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari just over half a minute back ahead of veteran Williams driver Felipe Massa.

…But Nico Wasn’t About To Let History Repeat Itself

…But Nico Wasn’t About To Let History Repeat Itself

Lewis started on pole after the new but terribly ill-conceived qualifying format (which was immediately scrapped in favour of the existing and much more exciting format) but after a poor start due in part to the newly-imposed restrictions on the use of driver aids, he fell back into sixth.

The Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel were looking very quick (and Lewis even said in the week leading up to the race that he thought the Italians had something up their designer sleeves) but their mid-race gamble to switch to super-soft tyres didn’t work out as planned and Kimi retired on lap 23 while Seb finished on the podium in third behind the Silver Arrows.

In an incident-packed season opener, the headline story happened on lap 17. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso attempted to pass Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez on the long run down to turn three when his front right wheel clipped the Mexican’s rear right, sending Alonso’s car into a terrifying barrel roll, finally ending up upside down in a crumpled heap in the barrier.

Remarkably albeit very shaken, Alonso walked away from what would have been, in years past, an almost certainly fatal incident so it’s a hats-off to the technicians, designers and scientists who create these multi-million dollar machines.

So, Nico finished ahead of Lewis for the fourth race in a row with Seb third and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo fourth. Romain Grosjean’s debut for Haas F1 ended with a superb sixth place and Britain’s newest F1 star Jolyon Palmer came a very creditable 11th for Renault, just missing out on the points.

The Australian Grand Prix – A Short History

The Australian Grand Prix – A Short History

The grand prix is a stalwart of Australian motorsport. The race was first held at Phillip Island in 1928 but it wasn’t until 1985 that the Australian Grand Prix featured in the FIA Formula One World Championship and it has been a mainstay of the calendar ever since.

For ten years from 1985, the race was held at the Adelaide Street Circuit and then in 1996 it switched to Albert Park in Melbourne where it’s been held every year since (and is contracted to run until 2023).

Here is Albert Park in numbers:

  • Circuit length – 5.303 km (3.295 mi)
  • Number of laps – 58
  • Race distance – 307.574 km (191.117 mi)
  • Lap record – 1m 24.125s (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
  • Most successful drivers – Lex Davidson (AUS), Michael Schumacher (GER) – 4 wins
  • Most successful constructor – McLaren – 12 winsThe road circuit in Adelaide was often compared to Monaco for its tight twisty-turny lap and it was a gearbox killer but that didn’t stop it playing a crucial role in the final destination of the 1986 and 1994 world championships.

The road circuit in Adelaide was often compared to Monaco for its tight twisty-turny lap and it was a gearbox killer but that didn’t stop it playing a crucial role in the final destination of the 1986 and 1994 world championships.

In ’86, the  title was a three-way battle between the Williams pair of Nigel Mansell and  Nelson Piquet and mercurial (some would say precocious) Frenchman Alain Prost. The Brit was on pole but he made a slow start, allowing Piquet to take the lead but second was all Mansell needed to clinch the title; then followed one of F1’s most defining moments (and for sure one of the most repeated clips in sporting history). With just under 20 laps to go, Mansell’s tyre dramatically exploded down the main straight prompting legendary commentator Murray Walker to say ‘and look at that… and colossally… That’s Mansell!’

Prost went on to win the 1986 title with Walker saying ‘the 1986 Grand Prix was not just the finest F1 race I’ve seen in Australia, but one of the best of all time and the climax to one of the greatest seasons there has ever been.’

In 1994, another Brit, this time Damon Hill was battling with arguably the sport’s greatest ever exponent, Michael Schumacher. In a grisly homage to the Senna-Prost battles of the late 80s and early 90s, on lap 36 the German understeered off the track and hit the wall but re-joined the race and hit Hill. Schumacher was eliminated but the damage to Hill’s front suspension was too severe for him to continue and the title went to Schumacher, the first of his seven.

Past Winners

Past Winners

Since 1985 when the Australian Grand Prix became a fixture on the F1 calendar, the roster of winners reads like a who’s who of the finest driving talent the world has ever seen:

The 1980s

Year Winner Car
1985 Keke Rosberg Williams-Renault
1986 Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
1987 Gerhard Berger Ferrari
1988 Alain Prost McLaren-Honda
1989 Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault

 

The 1990s

Year Winner Car
1990 Nelson Piquet Benneton-Ford
1991 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda
1992 Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda
1993 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Ford
1994 Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault
1995 Damon Hill Williams-Renault
1996 Damon Hill Williams-Renault
1997 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes
1998 Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes
1999 Eddie Irvine Ferrari

 

The 2000s

Year Winner Car
2000 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2001 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2002 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2003 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2005 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault
2006 Fernando Alonso Renault
2007 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari
2008 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2009 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes

 

The 2010s

Year Winner Car
2010 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2011 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2012 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2013 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault
2014 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes

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