Rosberg wins opener as Alonso survives crash

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Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1-2 finish at the Australian Grand Prix yesterday.

Nico Rosberg blitzed the field to win the Australian Grand Prix (GP) on Sunday, in a dramatic opening race of the 2016 Formula 1 (F1) season.

It's the German's fourth win in a row, after he dominated the backend of last year, and his second career win in Melbourne.

"Yeah!" Rosberg, runner-up in the drivers' championship last season, yelled over the radio after his 15th GP win on Sunday.

"Awesome, guys, awesome. Great start to the season."

The 30-year-old beat out bitter rival and Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton.

The Brit had to settle for second, after a slow start from pole curtailed his hopes of kickstarting 2016 with a win as he searches for a third-straight world championship.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who shot to an unexpected lead on the first corner, earlier looked set to break the Mercedes pair's four-race streak of one-two finishes.

However, a bungled tire strategy meant Mercedes maintained the status quo.

Despite this, the German had an opportunity to run down Hamilton's silver arrows in the final stages of the race, however, inexplicably, ran off the road at Turn 15 on lap 54, ending his charge.

Australia's golden boy, Daniel Ricciardo, finished just off the podium in the fourth, the best result for a local in their home race.

However, the GP was brought to a standstill 18 laps into the race, with one of the biggest crashes ever seen in its 21-year history bringing about a red-flag.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was lucky to walk away from a scary crash that reduced his McLaren to a crumpled carcass.

The incident, which stopped the race for more than half an hour, happened after the Spaniard attempted to overtake Haas' Esteban Gutierrez as he slowly rounded Turn 3.

Driving at over 200km/h, Alonso clipped the back of the Mexican's drive, jarring his front-right wheel, sending him into the barriers and, spectacularly, turning the car upside down as it hurtled into the fence. Gutierrez also ended up in the gravel.

Both drivers retired and were later cleared by medics.

The subsequent restart, which stemmed from the nasty shunt, completely changed the complexion of the race.

As the race got underway again, both Mercedes drivers opted for medium compound tires, attempting to outlast the rest of the field by going without a stop for the last 39 laps.

The strategy ultimately paid dividends with Vettel, trying a more aggressive approach, forced to pit in the 35th lap as his tires deteriorated.

Later, Vettel was left to rue his team's three-stop strategy on soft and super-soft tires.

"Obviously the red flag, you can argue, didn't help us," the four-time F1 champion said post race on Saturday.

"One time it plays into your favor, the other time it catches you out a bit.

"We went for the aggressive route. Maybe, with hindsight, we could have done something else, but I'm not willing to blame anything or anyone."

His Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who rounded the often calamitous first corner of the Melbourne street circuit in the second, started the day well.

But it was over soon after, with his airbox bursting into flames as he returned to the garage.

A sluggish start from Hamilton, who had been peerless in the early part of the weekend, reshuffled him all the way back to the seventh.

Although he showed the best pace of the weekend, clocking the fastest lap ever recorded at Albert Park in qualifying, Hamilton had to painstakingly battle his way back through the pack all afternoon.

The world champion later told reporters that, following his disastrous start, the whole race had been about "damage limitation", and not giving Rosberg too much of a head start ahead of the Bahrain GP on April 6.

"It was a great, great race because we had to come from so far behind. Glad everyone's okay after that shunt," Hamilton said on the podium.

"I'm happy with the result, I take this as a real bonus to have come back from seventh."

In the big surprise of the race, Haas' Romain Grosjean finished the sixth. Handing the new team its first constructors' points in Formula 1.

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