Coming into the new season, meant a whole set of rule changes, one of which was the elimination qualifying format whereby drivers have a 5 minute window in qualifying sessions 1, 2 and 3 to set a time. After this period, the slowest drivers are eliminated until the final qualifying sessions when 2 drivers fight out for the no.1 spot.

World champion Lewis Hamilton, took position for the 50th time in his career over his team-mate, Rosberg, by being 0.360 seconds faster, said afterwards that the new rule didn’t work. “We said at the beginning it wasn’t the right way, but you can’t knock it until you try it,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton’s hopes for a fast confident start to the season soon vanished, as Rosberg and rival to the crown Sebastian Vettel, got in front going into the first corner and sent the three time champ down to 6th spot.

NO sooner had the race got into a pattern, a huge incident, suspended the action at Albert Park.  By lap 17 Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso, caught Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas car at turn three and sent his car straight into the wall before going veering into the air and into the gravel pit.

“”We both tried to fight and obviously sometimes we forget we are at 300km/h and every little crash can become much bigger,” said the two-times world champion.” I took the slipstream as late as I could, until the breaking point, and in the last moment it was a combination of factors that we ended up with a crash. 

“I think it is a racing incident. It’s tough, and the same for Gutierrez – but we are both happy and talking here, that’s the really important point.”

From the re-start there was a change in strategy with Ferrari’s Vettel changing tyres, which didn’t pay off and enabled Rosberg, who won in Australia two years ago, to succeed again. Waiting for the former German champion to pitstop, the Mercedes driver bided his time before taking over. Vettel may well have won the race and held on, had he had radio transmission with his team to be aware of issues. But another new rule has come into effect this season restricting the two-way communication between driver and team leader.

Rosberg said: “It was a great race and I’m really pleased. To win the first race of the season was awesome. It was a good kick-start to the season.”

Lewis Hamilton, who was forced out to 7th spot when the crash took place, stayed on a one-stop tyre tactic to eventually go round the circuit and take a podium position in second. “I’ve had much worse in the first race,” Hamilton said. “I take this as a real bonus to come back from seventh.”There’s a long, long way to go. I bagged good points today. I’m happy.”

The next Grand Prix is in Bahrain on the 3 April.