21 Mar 2016

Rosberg wins as Alonso survives horror smash

5:39 am on 21 March 2016

The Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has won the first race of the Formula One season, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Niko Rosberg, Mexico, 2015.

Niko Rosberg, Mexico, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rosberg's team mate and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was second ahead of Ferrari's Sebastien Vettel in third.

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

Hamilton finished eight seconds behind after recovering from a chaotic start that pushed the him back to sixth at the first turn.

Vettel held the lead after a good start from third place on the grid, but a spectacular crash on lap 18 involving the McLaren driver Fernando Alonso stopped the race and helped Mercedes regain the advantage.

Alonso clipped the rear right wheel of Esteban Gutierrez's Haas at high speed going into turn three, sending the McLaren careening into a barrier, smashing it to pieces, before it flipped, rolled and flew end-over-end into the gravel trap.

The two time champion from Spain walked gingerly away from the mangled wreck to the Mexican Gutierrez where the pair embraced.

The ensuing red flag forced teams to rethink their tyre strategy which Ferrari appeared to bungle as Vettel was overtaken by Rosberg and Hamilton.

New team Haas celebrated points on debut, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean finishing sixth behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Williams driver Felipe Massa.