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2016 Australian GP driver ratings

Who starred in the season-opener in Australia and who started 2016 in less than impressive fashion...

Yes, Nico Rosberg was fortunate Mercedes out-thought Ferrari at the red flag. Yes, Sebastian Vettel may have won this race had the Scuderia opted for the medium compounds. But Rosberg's pace, and race management, deserves a huge amount of credit.

The pressure was on the German this weekend to follow up his impressive form at the end of 2015 and while he didn't sound overly confident In the build-up and wasn't too quick on Friday or Saturday, Rosberg's stint after the stoppage won him this grand prix. When Ferrari needed Vettel to pull away on the supersofts, Rosberg instead matched - and occasionally even bettered - his countryman's pace.

After winning that battle, he never looked in danger of being caught by either Lewis Hamilton or Vettel, and eventually finished eight seconds clear of his team-mate. "Early days, but a perfect start," said Rosberg. That's four consecutive wins for him now - and he must continue in the same vein if he is going to secure his first world championship.
Rating out of ten: 8

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After slipping to sixth place on the first lap having started on pole, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was happy with his performance

So Lewis Hamilton is a half-full kind of guy. Given the choice between disappointment at effectively losing the race with a slow start off the line or relief at finishing second having fallen to sixth on that disastrous first lap and seventh at the restart, the world champion opted for the latter.

Damage limitation for relieved Hamilton

So let's give credit where it's due too. Assuming that Lewis's poor start was the result of a computer glitch rather than finger trouble, the world champion didn't put a wheel off line all weekend and was clearly the fastest driver in the field - topping the timesheets in every practice session before thrashing Rosberg in qualifying. "It was a fantastic performance from Hamilton on Saturday. He put to bed - immediately - any suspicion that Nico had overturned him at the end of last season," enthused Sky F1's Damon Hill.

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Hamilton might not have won on Sunday but neither will he have departed Melbourne feeling he was defeated.
Rating out of ten: 8

Sebastian Vettel should have been celebrating victory in Australia, but instead found himself on the bottom step of the podium after a strategy blunder.

A fantastic start saw the German leap from third to first at the start and he controlled the race during the opening stop, showing enough pace to cover off the undercut from Rosberg.

The decision to stick with the supersofts during the red flag proved costly and Ferrari can consider themselves lucky to have salvaged a podium thanks to the pace of Vettel - although he did then squander an opportunity to snatch second when he ran off the track after catching Hamilton. 

But all in all, this was an impressive display from Vettel. He extracted the maximum from the Ferrari package all weekend, underlined by out-qualifying Kimi Raikkonen by over two tenths of a second.
Rating out of ten: 8.5

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Ted Kravitz's Notebook brings you all the latest news following the Australian GP

Starting eighth on the grid, who would have predicted a positive result for Daniel Ricciardo? Instead, the Red Bull driver secured his best official result at his home grand prix.

Ricciardo lost a place after the start but worked his way up to sixth through 11 laps and was fourth when the race was red-flagged. After Kimi Raikkonen's retirement, Ricciardo even flirted with a podium finish but can be comforted by setting the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages after overtaking Felipe Massa.

Red Bull aren't expected to receive their Renault engine upgrade until Montreal but Ricciardo's pace, particularly on the soft compounds, proved they are a force to be reckoned with this season. As for Ricciardo himself, this could be a critical season in his quest for a future world title with bigger moves a possibility in 2017. He certainly has the speed.
Rating out of ten: 8.5

Fifth place was more than Williams and Felipe Massa could have expected in Albert Park. Still awaiting an updated front-wing for their new car, the team were arguably as low as fifth in the pecking order behind Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso this weekend - making Massa's result all the more impressive.

It owed plenty, of course, to clever strategy and that familiar virtue of keeping your nose clean when everyone else around you is losing their head, but Massa remains a seriously under-rated competitor. After out-qualifying Bottas on Saturday, he had everyone justification in declaring himself "very happy" at his work on race day. 
Rating out of ten: 7.5

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Romain Grosjean finished sixth in Australia, securing Haas' first ever points in F1

An incredible day for Romain Grosjean and Haas saw the Frenchman finish sixth on the team's debut.

Having been caught out by the new qualifying rules and started 19th, Grosjean kept out of trouble during the first part of the race and a timely red flag gave him a free pitstop.

Grosjean: It feels like a victory!

That change of tyres to the mediums allowed Grosjean to run to the end of the race and beat several quicker cars to the chequered flag. It was a performance which proved how much the Frenchman has matured as a driver and an incredible result for a new team.
Rating out of ten: 9

Try as he might, Nico Hulkenberg just couldn't find a way past Grosjean. But after Force India were caught out by the crash on lap 18, seventh shouldn't represent a massively disappointing weekend for the German.

Hulkenberg, like his team-mate, was brought into pit before the red flags and had to finish the grand prix on the mediums, and it is testament to his consistency and nerve that he wasn't caught by rivals in the Williams and Toro Rosso.
Rating out of ten: 7.5

Valtteri Bottas

"We made the most of it," reflected Valtteri Bottas after climbing from 16th at the first corner to 8th at the chequered flag. A respectable damage limitation effort, then, but the Finn's unusual aggression - bordering on race rudeness - when fighting Jolyon Palmer betrayed his frustration. "I'm not really satisfied with these kind of places," he rued pointedly.

Williams' modest pace relative to their 'best of the rest' rivals was surprising, but so too was Bottas' defeat to Massa in qualifying that saw him fail to make Q3. An average start to a make-or-break season for a driver who needs to deliver dynamism. 
Rating out of ten: 7

Carlos Sainz looked on course for another solid result until Toro Rosso went what the Spaniard felt was the wrong way on strategy during a red flag period.

"There are doubts, we were P6 and we ended up P9," said the Spaniard when asked about his strategy.

Sainz also produced a fine qualifying performance to make Q3 and was only a tenth of a second behind team-mate Max Verstappen who grabbed the headlines.

However, he beat his team-mate to the chequered flag when it mattered, much to the Dutchman's frustration, and once again proved that he should be regarded as one of F1's hottest properties.
Rating out of ten: 8

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The Sky Sports F1 pundits react to some heated radio messages from Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen and say that he needs to keep calm to progress

20 races into his F1 career and for the first time Max Verstappen has disappointed. The pace was still there - particularly in qualifying - but the petulance that blighted his performance, as well as turning the air blue over team radio, was as unedifying as it was unnecessary and counter-productive.

His complaining was also entirely misguided: if he was so much quicker than Carlos Sainz, who was merely a tenth slower than qualifying, then why didn't Verstappen overtake his team-mate having been given permission to do so? Expecting Sainz to simply move aside was too much. "I think he showed his age. A calmer head would have finished further up the road," noted Sky F1's Martin Brundle. "That was the first sign of immaturity we've seen from Max," added Damon Hill.

Defying second-season syndrome brings its own pressure and it was curious that Verstappen, a wise head on young shoulders throughout 2015, should have wobbled now. 
Rating out of ten: 6

And the rest:

Oh so nearly a dream debut with a points finish for Jolyon Palmer, who enjoyed a fine weekend in the Renault. The F1 rookie featured well in qualifying - when he beat Magnussen - and was involved in many a tight battle come race day.

First he held off Bottas and then was a huge irritation to Toro Rosso, particularly Verstappen, by blocking their quicker cars for some time. He eventually had to relinquish the position but given the problems Renault faced before the season, finishing ahead of the McLarens and a Force India was a fine result.

2016 will be a steep learning curve for both team and driver but on this evidence, the former GP2 champion looks like he's here to stay.
Rating out of ten: 9

Kevin Magnussen was expected to be the leading star at Renault this year, but found himself out-qualified and out-raced by his rookie team-mate.

The Dane lost a lap with puncture at the start and was fortunate a safety car and red flag allowed him to get back on the lead lap.

From there he recovered well, finishing two seconds behind Palmer - a positive to take out of a tough weekend.
Rating out of ten: 7

Sergio Perez encountered the same problems as Hulkenberg when it came to strategy, and more so when it came to reliability.

The Mexican lost a couple of places off the line and finished the race by overheating his brakes because of the traffic he spent his day in. A disappointing start to the season given the Force India's pace in qualifying.
Rating out of ten: 6.5

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McLaren's Fernando Alonso reflects upon his dramatic crash in the Australian GP and says he is luck to walk away from such a scary moment

While McLaren were better than expected in qualifying, their failure to score any points amounted to a below-par performance. Reduced to a car-one team after Fernando Alonso's was reduced to twisted metal in his crash with Esteban Gutierrez, McLaren were the architects of their own downfall after handicapping Jenson Button with the wrong strategy. "We made the wrong call twice - starting on the softs and then putting on the supersofts at the restart," Button complained in a rare display of public frustration. One step forward, two back.
Rating out of ten: 6

Felipe Nasr finished qualifying six tenths behind Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson, but that in part can be explained by having to abort his final flying lap due to the short-lived new rules.

After his heroic fifth place in Melbourne last year, this was a rather more subdued race as the Brazilian ran under the radar. Nasr was blunt in his summary of the race after the chequered flag: "We struggled with our pace compared to our competitors. It was clear during the race that I could not keep up with the cars in front of me. I think we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Rating out of ten: 6

A superb start to the race, and his F1 career, for Pascal Wehrlein - the debutant found himself up seven places in P14 after an extremely strong getaway and opening lap. Unfortunately the second half of the afternoon didn't quite go his way but he wasn't too far behind the Sauber in the end, and his performance is certainly something to build on. But what happened in qualifying when he was out-paced by Rio Haryanto?
Rating out of ten: 5

Did not finish: Fernando Alonso, Esteban Gutierrez, Rio Haryanto, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat and Marcus Ericsson

The first race of the 2016 F1 season, the Australian GP, is exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. The race in Melbourne starts at 5am on Sunday March 20.

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