Lewis leads way as Mercedes dominates
IF 2014 was the year that serious questions began to be asked about the future of Formula One, then 2015 could see the level of pressure on the sport hit top gear.
Fears of an even more comprehensive domination by Mercedes were realised in the opening race of the championship, the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, with defending champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg showing they were in a class of their own.
In a race that turned into a procession and saw just 11 cars finish, Hamilton took the chequered flag just 1.36 seconds ahead of Rosberg, with more than half-a-minute back to four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, driving for Ferrari for the first time, in third place.
Local hope Daniel Ricciardo struggled across the finish line in sixth place, but suffered the ignominy of being lapped by Hamilton in the closing stages.
After crossing the line second in Melbourne last year, and ending up third on the overall standings, Ricciardo admitted there was plenty of work to do.
"We got away with some points, but other than that there's not much more (to be positive about)," the Aussie said.
"We got lapped so obviously we've got some pace to find."
He also acknowledged the race would not have provided the fans with much excitement.
"It was a little bit of a boring race," he said. "I feel sorry for the fans."
After struggling in qualifying, Ricciardo started from sixth on the grid, thanks to the late withdrawal of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, ruled out with soft tissue damage to his back.
He was never able to mount any semblance of a challenge, however, and Red Bull will need to find some speed and reliability quickly to challenge Mercedes this year.
That could apply to most teams, particularly McLaren which lost Kevin Magnussen en route to the grid due to engine failure.
Ricciardo's new team-mate Daniil Kyvat suffered the same fate, while Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), teenager Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) all failed to finish after running into problems during the race.
With many of the smaller teams struggling financially, it remains to be seen whether the likes of Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull can mount any sort of a worthwhile challenge to Mercedes.
If not, Hamilton and Rosberg may have to be content with racing each other.