Nico Rosberg celebrated a dominant win for Mercedes in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix while Red Bull’s home hero Daniel Ricciardo suffered the heartbreak of being stripped of his first podium hours after the finish.
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and world champion Sebastian Vettel retired early on with reliability problems, the German’s exit ending his record run of nine successive victories racked up for Red Bull since last August.
Rosberg, Hamilton’s German team mate, capitalised on a brilliant start from third on the grid to snatch the lead before the first turn and roar to the fourth win of his career.
“Brilliant stuff, what a car you’ve given me! What a car!” the German shouted over the team radio after crossing the line.
Ricciardo crossed the finish 24.5 seconds behind but his joy at becoming Australia’s first driver to stand on the home podium was shattered more than five hours later when stewards disqualified the 24-year-old for a fuel flow irregularity.
That promoted McLaren’s Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen to second place, making the 21-year-old Formula One’s most successful debutant since Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in Melbourne in 1996.
Magnussen’s podium was also the first by a Dane in F1.
Team mate and 2009 world champion Jenson Button moved up to third with McLaren, who failed to finish in the top three all last season, leading the constructors’ standings.
Rosberg, tipped to duel with team mate Hamilton for the championship, celebrated his first win since last year’s British Grand Prix – when he was also the beneficiary of technical mishaps to Hamilton and Red Bull’s Vettel.
“The car was just really, really quick today,” he told reporters, looking forward with relish to the next race in Malaysia in two weeks.
“A really good engine, not much problem with fuel consumption. It just all worked perfectly.”