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More than 90,000 people flocked to Albert Park for the opening of the 2016 Formula One season, and Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott has declared the weekend a brilliant success.
“This Australian Grand Prix has had it all,” Westacott said. “Thrills, spills, leadership changes and a nail biting finish.” That’s before we even mention that Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped by just to wish the drivers luck before the big race.
Nico Rosberg won the race, taking his fourth successive victory and continuing the sparkling form with which he finished last season.
His victory over teammate Lewis Hamilton will give him a shot of confidence and help him maintain the mental advantage as they head into another intense campaign.
“The car’s just been unreal today,” said Rosberg. “We’ve got to keep an eye on the red guys [Ferrari], because they are very close as you saw today.”
Rounding out the podium was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who took the lead from the Mercedes drivers heading in to the first corner, only to surrender it by stopping later in the race for fresh tyres.
What most people will be discussing around the water-cooler was the gnarly accident involving Fernando Alonso that saw him collide with the wall before flipping several times in one of the track’s high speed corners.
He was lucky to walk away unharmed, thankful for the safety-systems build in to modern Formula One cars and even told the press he wanted to send a message to him mum who was watching at home.
Renault performed admirably in their return to Formula One, particularly rookie Jolyon Palmer, while the US-owned Haas F1 put their car into P6 and silenced the doubters who thought they’d be making up the numbers at the back of the grid.
Despite the hectic promotional schedule that comes with a home grand prix, Daniel Ricciardo managed to dial it in on race day and progress from his eighth place start to finish just off the podium in P4.
Although he finished behind the Mercedes and Ferraris, there was clear air between him and the next guy, suggesting that we could see the Australian on more podiums in 2016 if a little luck goes his way.
Rumours persist around the paddock that Ricciardo could be on his way to Ferrari in 2017, and if he continues to success he just might be lining up on the grid wearing red overalls this time next year.
Speaking of next year, Westacott already has his eye on the calendar.
“This week has had it all,” said Westacott. “Great crowds, world class Formula One action and something for everyone off the track with the Fan Zone, stunt shows, air displays and brand new M-Lane precinct.”
“We’re already counting down to 2017.”