Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg has won an Australian Formula One Grand Prix marred by a terrifying crash involving Spaniard Fernando Alonso.
Rosberg triumphed in Sunday’s season-opening race at Melbourne’s Albert Park, with teammate Lewis Hamilton second, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third and Australian Daniel Ricciardo finishing fourth.
Alonso remarkably walked away from a horror accident on lap 17 of the 57-lap race when his car barrel-rolled into trackside gravel, flipped twice in mid-air and then smacked into a wall.
Alonso had jinked his McLaren to the left of Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez as they slowed to take a corner but his car clipped the rear of Guiterrez’s vehicle and the front left wheel of the Spanish driver’s car was ripped off.
The McLaren pitched against an outside wall at top speed before rolling through the gravel and coming to rest against a far wall in one of the most horrific looking accidents to ever occur at the Albert Park venue.
Alonso was later cleared by medical staff of any injury.
The crash caused a red flag and a 10-minute delay to a race which began with pole-sitter and reigning world champion Hamilton botching the start.
Hamilton slipped from first to sixth in the blink of an eye as Ferrari’s Vettel sped into the lead at the first turn.
From then, Vettel opened up an advantage of more than 11 seconds over the Mercedes ace only for the forced restart to create a logjam in the field – and make tyre choice paramount.
Vettel lost top-billing on his soft tyres as Rosberg and Hamilton drove on medium compound tyres for greater durability – and Rosberg soon assumed the lead.
Local hope Ricciardo was second for a stint before being overtaken by Hamilton, the Australian then being forced to pit and change his soft tyres, dropping to fifth.
Ricciardo then produced a late charge but couldn’t quite reel in Vettel’s third position, while Williams’ Felipe Massa came fifth, followed by Haas’ Romain Grosjean, with Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India), Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) rounding out the top 10.