Lewis Hamilton wins with ease in Australia as only 11 cars finish

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Melbourne
Hamilton gets season off to winning start

Lewis Hamilton dominated the Australian Grand Prix to get his world title defence off to the perfect start.

He drove a measured race, controlling the gap to his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg throughout as the team left the rest of the field behind.

Ferrari's improved form was confirmed as new signing Sebastian Vettel took third, beating Williams's Felipe Massa.

Arnie and Lewis: I'll be back!

Jenson Button achieved his aim of finishing in the slow and unreliable McLaren-Honda but was 11th and last.

The season started in dramatic style as the field lost three cars cars even before the start, in front of a capacity crowd in Albert Park under blue Melbourne skies, the warm sunshine tempered by a cool, strong and blustery wind.

Williams's Valtteri Bottas was ordered not to race by the official doctor after suffering an injured disc in his back in qualifying and spending the night in hospital.

McLaren-Honda's poor reliability struck Kevin Magnussen as he headed around to take his place on the grid, the Dane stopping in a cloud of blue smoke between Turns Five and Six.

Red Bull also lost a car before the start, Daniil Kvyat stopping shortly afterwards, just failing to make it around to the pits after hitting gearbox trouble.

With the absence of the Manor Marussia team, who did not run at all throughout the weekend, that meant just 15 cars took the start.

Australian GP: Pastor Maldonado crashes out on first lap

And another was lost within a few hundred metres, as Lotus's Pastor Maldonado was tagged by Felipe Nasr's Sauber at the first corner and spun into the barriers, bringing out the safety car.

When the race finally started, the excitement ebbed away as Hamilton quickly built a lead and then controlled his pace until the first stops, holding it at about two seconds.

It was the same story after their pit stops, Hamilton allowing an initial 4.6-second lead to reduce to the region of two seconds and holding it there.

Movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger presented the trophies and did the podium interviews, Hamilton telling him: "My team did an amazing job today and it's an incredible feeling to win and also to be here with you, man. I thought you were taller!"

Rosberg said: "I was trying every lap to my maximum and I will do all year. I will give him a big run for his money and hopefully beat him."

Lewis and Nico
Nico Rosberg said that Hamilton "drove like a world champion"

Mercedes were in a race of their own at the front and behind them Ferrari managed to get Vettel into third ahead of Massa with clever strategy.

Massa was caught behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo on his first lap after his pit stop and Vettel was ahead when he emerged from his own tyre change two laps later.

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, the only leading driver to make two pit stops, dropped back after a slow first stop caused by a problem fitting his left rear.

Raikkonen was planning to challenge Massa after his second stop but after another problem with the same wheel he was sent on his way without it being properly fitted and was forced to pull off just four corners after rejoining.

There will be a post mortem at Ferrari after Raikkonen suffered similar problems at both stops and the team face punishment from the FIA for an unsafe release.

The Finn's retirement promoted Sauber's Felipe Nasr to an impressive fifth place on his debut, to give the struggling Swiss team their first points for more than a year.

Australian GP: Sebastian Vettel's feet on ground after podium finish

The Brazilian held off Ricciardo on a poor weekend for Red Bull, who were only slightly faster than their junior team Toro Rosso.

Novice Carlos Sainz was running strongly in seventh early in the race, just behind Ricciardo, but dropped to the back after a slow pit stop.

Sainz fought back to run eighth in the closing laps, behind Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, but was passed by Sauber's Marcus Ericsson with two laps to go.

Force India's Sergio Perez took the final point, despite a spin when fighting with Button early in the race.

Button languished more than 20 seconds behind the Mexican, lapping more than two seconds off the pace of the next slowest car, but just managed to nurse the car to the flag despite a gearbox problem.

The second Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, the youngest driver in F1 history, had been promoted to sixth when he retired shortly after half distance.

Australian GP full results

Australian GP coverage details

Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes have now won a total of 30 grands prix
Kimi Raikkonen
Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene was "disappointed" after Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire after a tyre change went awry
Pastor Maldonado was forced to retire during Lap 1 after making contact with Sauber's Felipe Nasr
Rookie driver Felipe Nasr impressed finishing 5th. Sauber failed to win any points last season but have picked up 10 already in 2015
Rookie driver Felipe Nasr impressed finishing fifth. Sauber failed to score any points last season but have picked up 14 already in 2015
Daniil Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull suffered a gear box problem preventing him from even starting the race
Valteri Bottas
There was drama before the race had even started with Valteri Bottas being ruled out after suffering a back injury

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