Mercedes enjoy laugh last on day of high farce

Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:50am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A podium appearance by Hollywood strong-man Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed a suitable conclusion for a farcical Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix, where only 11 cars finished and Mercedes' dominance was almost embarrassing for the team's drivers.

World champion Lewis Hamilton may have finished only 1.3 seconds ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in winning Formula One's season-opener but the pole-sitting Briton crossed the line an astonishing 34 seconds clear of third-placed Sebastian Vettel.

As if to compensate for the lack of a contest on a sunny day at Albert Park, film actor and former California governor Schwarzenegger was drafted in for the podium ceremony, where he conducted some amusing, if slightly awkward, interviews.

The awkwardness was to continue in the post-race media conference where Hamilton and the equally diplomatic Rosberg were at pains to deny the Formula One season was not just a two-horse race.

"I think the Ferraris have taken a huge step forward and have made one of the biggest steps," Hamilton said generously as Ferrari debutant Vettel, sitting on his left, wore a wry smile.

"I anticipate we might have a good fight with them at some stage this year."

Rosberg, runner-up in the championship last year, was a bit franker when he said Mercedes would "be leading the way for sure" for the first couple of races.

"But it would be good if they can come a bit closer... as long as they don't get too close," the German said.   Continued...

(L to R) Second placed Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany, race winner Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain and third placed Ferrari Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrate on the podium after the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 15, 2015.    REUTERS/Jason Reed