With only 15 cars lining up on the starting grid, midfield drivers were given the task to make the most out of the situation and grab valuable points for their respective outfits. Sauber’s Felipe Nasr thrived in such conditions, finishing an excellent fifth on his debut.
At the front, Lewis Hamilton dominated the proceedings to give his season a head start, having played catch up for the majority of last year. Sebastian Vettel also made it to our shortened list of most impressive drivers from the Australian Grand Prix, having maximised his strategy to grab the final spot on the podium.
Pay drivers have always been rebuked in Formula 1 as they prevent more talented juniour series drivers from making their breakthrough in the pinnacle of motorsport. They tend to be average behind the wheels but bring valuable cash to smaller teams.
But as the Australian Grand Prix showed, Felipe Nasr is far from another pay driver. Taking part in his debut grand prix after finishing third in last year’s GP2 series, the Brazilian qualified an excellent 11th, five places ahead of teammate Marcus Ericsson who has a season’s worth experience under his belt. An extra tenth and he would have even made it to Q3.
In the race, he showed his qualifying pace was no fluke. The key to his result was a perfect start that propelled him to sixth by the end of first lap. He then passed Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso for fifth - a position he held until the end despite intense pressure from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Having trailed Nico Rosberg during both practice sessions on Friday, Lewis Hamilton turned the tables in his favour on Saturday with fastest laps in both practice and qualifying.
On race day, he made it look easy as he never let Rosberg come within a second of him. It was a masterful drive that strengthened his status as one of the best drivers on the grid, if not the best.
The victory provides him with a head start to the season, having played catch up for the majority of last year. It would be interesting to see how he fares vis-a-vis his teammate in the coming races, now that he has the momentum with him.
Given the domination of Mercedes, third place is all rivals could dream of. And that’s exactly what Sebastian Vettel managed on his maiden race for Ferrari.
Vettel was easy on his tyres during the early part of his first stint and when Massa came out in traffic after his sole pit stop, the German put the hammer down and managed to leapfrog him for the final spot on the podium.
It was this perfect execution of strategy that convinced us to include him in our list of top four drivers from the Australian Grand Prix.
Is he the same Marcus Ericsson who was outshone by every driver who bought the other seat at Caterham for a one-off race? Well, qualifying certainly suggested so with debutant Felipe Nasr beating him comprehensively in the sister Sauber.
However, it was his race craft that grabbed our attention. Having once languished at the back of the pack, Ericsson made his way through the field, passing Button and Perez for a spot in the top 10. He followed it up with a tidy pass over Carlos Sainz Jr to score his first ever Formula 1 points.
While the result provided a reason for joy, the Swedish driver still has a massive job in his hands with a talented driver on the other side of the garage.