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September 20, 2017

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Mercedes' Nico Rosberg wins F1 Aussie GP

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg comfortably won the Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday after pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and world champion Sebastian Vettel retired early with mechanical failures.

Vettel's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished second, becoming the first Australian to finish on the podium in his home GP, while McLaren's Kevin Magnussen finished third in his debut.

Rosberg started third on the grid and was first to reach turn one, then drove away from the field to eventually win by 24.5 seconds at the Albert Park street circuit. The margin of victory and the authority of the performance showed why Mercedes is considered a strong favorite to finally win its first constructors' title this season.

"I had an unbelievably quick car today," said Rosberg, whose world champion father Keke won the inaugural Australian F1 GP in 1985. "It was such a pleasure to drive, it's such a great feeling and I really look forward to the new races."

Hamilton retired after four laps and Vettel followed a lap later, both with engine failures as their teams, and others, tried to come to grips with the F1's new V6 turbo hybrid engines.

"We looked so strong but to then have a hiccup is tough for everyone, but we will bounce back," Hamilton said.

Like Mercedes, Red Bull was on one hand celebrating a strong performance in the opening race while also harboring concern about the engine problems that caused the retirements of their top drivers.

"We learned the car is quick, we just need to get everything together," Vettel said. "No doubt we'll fix this issue, the question is how soon?"

McLaren's Jenson Button was fourth behind his rookie teammate and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished fifth in a worryingly uncompetitive performance for the Italian team.

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas recovered from losing a wheel early in the race to finish in sixth place; pulling off a succession of impressive passing moves that showed the strong potential of the car.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen — in his return to the team after six years away — finished seventh and eighth respectively, ahead of the Toro Rosso pair Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.

Despite fears that few cars would complete the race due to a series of reliability problems in preseason testing and over this weekend, 15 of the 22 racers finished. There was only one major accident, with Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi slamming into the back of Felipe Massa's Williams at the first corner, immediately ending the race for both drivers.

Ricciardo's second place brought the Albert Park crowd to its feet on the final turn, and local fans were finally able to see an Australian on the podium after years of seeing his Red Bull predecessor Mark Webber fall short.

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