Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes showing ominous signs with storming Australia GP victory

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finish one-two in the season opener but what is scary for their opponents is they can improve in 2015, writes Graham Caygill.

Lewis Hamilton held the advantage over Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes teammate, throughout the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday. Diego Azubel / EPA
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Mercedes-GP dominated like no team had ever done before in Formula One in 2014, winning a record 16 races, taking 10 one-two finishes and claiming 18 pole positions.

The biggest challenge the German team was always going to most likely face this season was attempting to improve on it, but judging by Sunday’s one-two finish for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the Australian Grand Prix, it seems they are going to have a good go at achieving just that.

Anyone hoping that teams such as Williams, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari had been able to close the gap to Mercedes in the 112 days since the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concluded the 2014 season would have been sorely disappointed by Sunday’s race.

Hamilton and Rosberg were never challenged as they competed in an almost private duel for the race win at the front in Melbourne.

In the opening stages they were more than a second faster than anyone else on the track, and although their pace did slow as they looked after fuel management and dealt with tyre degradation, it was clear that both drivers had extra speed at their disposal.

Hamilton held the advantage throughout over Rosberg, other than one lap when he made his sole pit stop, after converting pole position into the lead at the start.

Though Rosberg was never more than 3.5 seconds adrift of Hamilton, he was not able to get the margin to less than a second as Hamilton controlled the gap throughout to pick up the 34th win of his career and second at Albert Park.

It was a similar narrative to 2014 in that the pair were well matched for much of the race, but the 2014 world champion had the edge and got the 25 points, with Rosberg again quick but not quite fast enough to beat the man sharing the same machinery as him.

“Nico was quick throughout the race. In terms of tyres, we did not know how far they could go,” Hamilton said. “When Nico turned up the heat I was able to react, which was good.”

Such was the comprehensiveness of Mercedes’s speed advantage, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel best of the rest in third place 34.5 seconds adrift and with only five cars on the lead laps, that Hamilton and Rosberg attempted to do some public relations damage limitation for the sport in the post-race news conference by claiming they did expect to be challenged by their rivals this season.

“I think the Ferraris have taken a huge step forward and have made one of the biggest steps,” Hamilton said. “I anticipate we might have a good fight with them at some stage this year.”

Rosberg added: “It would be good if they can come a bit closer ... as long as they don’t get too close.”

The comments received short shrift from Vettel, who replied to Rosberg: “Be honest, do you really hope so? Seriously? You finish 34 seconds ahead of us and you hope it’s going to be closer? You hope you’ll slow down?”

It was still an encouraging day for Ferrari and Vettel in their first race together since the four-time world champion joined the team from Red Bull during the winter.

He overtook Felipe Massa’s Williams, who had run third in the early stages, during the pit stops to get ahead of the Brazilian, and Ferrari would have had both cars in the top five had a botched pit stop for Kimi Raikkonen not forced the Finn to pull over and stop with his left rear tyre not properly attached.

“We have to focus on ourselves and make sure what we have learned from this weekend we take into the next races,” Vettel said.

“The most important thing is if we finish, we finish right behind Mercedes. We need to confirm that in the next race. That is priority No 1.”

The second round of the season is in Malaysia on March 29.


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