Rosberg delighted with perfect start on Friday in Australia

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Nico Rosberg could not have wished for a better start to the 2015 Formula 1 season after topping both of Friday’s free practice sessions in Melbourne, Australia.

Rosberg edged out Mercedes teammate and probable championship rival Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2, enjoying an aggregate advantage of 0.129 seconds at the end of the day.

Mercedes appears to have lost none of its pace from its record-breaking 2014 season, with Ferrari finishing some seven-tenths of a second down on the German team on Friday.

Rosberg was pleased that his practice results affirmed the faith that he had shown in the new Mercedes W06 Hybrid car during winter testing, and is already readying himself for a battle with Hamilton for the drivers’ title once again in 2015.

“It was great to be back in the car at this awesome track,” Rosberg said. “Today we have the evidence that our Silver Arrow is quick again and it was a great start for the team.

“I was very happy with my long run but on one lap I still need to work on the pace as I had a lot of oversteer in the car. It seems again that it’s very close between Lewis and me and he is a great driver, so I need to nail the setup every time to come out on top.

“This year will be a big battle again against him, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to the first weekend of the new season with all the great fans out there.”

In spite of Rosberg’s display, team boss Toto Wolff called on Mercedes to remain grounded at the start of the season, remaining wary of the pace that Ferrari and Williams may have in reserve.

“We need to keep our feet on the ground but it makes no sense to talk ourselves down: the performance is good and we look competitive,” Wolff said.

“But it wasn’t a seamless day, the drivers weren’t too happy with the car on the final run, so we have some work to do overnight to find the sweet spot.

“Looking at the field, it will be close with Ferrari and Williams, too. Of course, we don’t know fuel loads and don’t know what engine modes were run, whether it was really spicy or if there is still more to come.

“Like always: when the flag drops, the bull**** stops. Let’s see how it looks tomorrow.”

You can watch qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2a ET on Saturday. Click here for more details.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).