Hamilton is attempting to become the first British driver to win back-to-back titles and his 34th GP victory – his first in the Australian Grand Prix since 2008 – suggested he will win a third championship with something to spare, which was hardly the case with his previous two.
He is driving the strongest car out there and when he looks at his only serious rival, Rosberg, he knows that he is a whole class better. And so does Rosberg. The Mercedes made it a comfortable one-two and however much Hamilton protested, it was one of his most straightforward victories. “It really, really wasn’t,” he said. “I was right on it the whole way and at any moment if I’d have slipped, he’d have had it. We looked so far ahead but we were having our own little battle. Nico was putting pressure on me and I was controlling the gap. By no means was it easy.”
But Hamilton drove well within himself. He revealed as much when he added: “I felt comfortable. I had the pace if I needed to respond.” Quite.
Hamilton was at his most energised when he met Arnold Schwarzenegger on the podium after the race. “I am a real fan of his. So it was really, really cool.”
There were only 11 finishers with most of the casualties falling before or at the very start of the race, like little green bottles falling off the wall.
In fact that was where most of the action was as a patient crowd tried to make the most of things. The last man, Jenson Button, Hamilton’s former team-mate at troubled McLaren, was the only driver to finish the race but out of the points.
Valtteri Bottas, who had qualified for sixth place on the grid, was ruled unfit by an FIA medical delegate because of a tear in his lower back and had to withdraw. With the Manor team not taking part that reduced the official starting grid to 17 cars. But there were only 15 there at the start because Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat failed to survive their reconnaissance laps.
Magnussen came to a halt with a plume of smoke coming out of his car and Kvyat spun into the gravel with suspected transmission trouble.
There was another accident on the first lap when Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus got squeezed into the barriers following a minor collision between the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Then, on the second lap, Romain Grosjean retired with apparent mechanical failure. That meant there were only 13 cars left with the race barely started and later on Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) and Raikkonen also dropped out.
It was a good day for the rookies, though they were betrayed by their cars. And it was a good race for Sauber after their most difficult of weeks fighting legal issues, with Felipe Nasr finishing fifth and Marcus Ericsson eighth.
For those who do not want the procession to last all year there was an impressive drive from Vettel who took the final podium place. But it was another sad day for McLaren. Button finished last and Magnussen did not even make it to the grid.
Button said afterwards: “Finishing a grand prix is not our aim and ambition in life, but this is a big step for us from what we expected but also from what we did in testing. So it’s been tough for everyone but this race has really brought everyone together and is focusing us a lot for the next race and where we hope we can bring some good improvements.”
Everyone will have to bring a lot of improvements to Barcelona when the circus comes to Europe in May. Even then it will not be enough.
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