VICTORY IN MELBOURNE: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton (right) poses with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the podium after winning the season-opening 2015 Australian GP. Image: AP / William West
MELBOURNE, Australia A podium appearance by Hollywood strong-man Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed a suitable conclusion for a farcical race at the 2015 Australian GP in which only 11 cars finished and Mercedes' dominance was almost embarrassing for its drivers.
2014 Drivers' champion Lewis Hamilton may have finished only 1.3sec ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in winning Formula 1's season-opener but he crossed the line an astonishing 34sec ahead of third-placed Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
As if to compensate for the lack of a contest at Albert Park, film actor and former California governor Schwarzenegger was drafted in for the podium ceremony during which he conducted some amusing, if slightly awkward, interviews.
'WE MIGHT HAVE A GOOD FIGHT'
The awkwardness was to continue in the post-race media conference when Hamilton and the equally diplomatic Rosberg were at pains to deny the F1 season was not just a two-horse race.
Hamilton said: "I think the Ferraris have taken a huge step forward. I anticipate we might have a good fight with them at some stage this year."
Rosberg, runner-up in the 2014 championship, was a bit less reticent when he said Mercedes "would be leading the way for sure" for the first few races.
He said: "It would be good if they could come a bit closer... as long as they don't get too close."
His comments drew a laugh from Vettel, a four-times Drivers' champion when driving for Red Bull, who had plenty of experience defending the dominance of his former team.
'YOU HOPE YOU'LL SLOW DOWN?'
He said: "Be honest, do you really hope so? Seriously? You finish 34 seconds ahead of us and you hope it's going to be closer? You hope you'll slow down?"
Hamilton and Rosberg won 16 out of 19 race wins in 2014's championship and 18 out of 19 poles. They dominated qualifying again in Australia with the Briton lapping nearly 1.5sec quicker than Felipe Massa's Williams in third place, times that suggest the Silver Arrows have actually widened the gap to their rival team and raised immediate fears the season will be a foregone conclusion.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said his team had met all its targets, or almost so. "The pace of the cars is incredible and then to have a faultless weekend with both drivers without any problems. This is the result you can achieve."
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