Daniel Ricciardo shows his joy on finsihing second. Photo: Joe Armao
As Mercedes-Benz driver Nico Rosberg turned the Australian Grand Prix into a procession at Albert Park on Sunday, Australia was delighting in the second-placed performance of Daniel Ricciardo - a celebration that hit a hurdle late on Sunday night.
Ricciardo fulfilled Australia's and his own dreams with his podium finish but that position was under threat as race stewards investigated whether his car had exceeded the maximum allowable fuel flow.
Reports said his Red Bull car had ''exceeded consistently the maximum allowed fuel flow of 100 kilograms per hour''.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany crosses the finish line to win the Formula One Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Rosberg, who had started third on the grid, won for the first time in Australia and the fourth time in his career, and so easy was his success that his shout of ''what a car'' after he took the chequered flag almost qualified as an understatement.
While the race was a foregone conclusion almost from the outset, with the pre-race favourite Mercedes justifying its position, that wasn't quite the case in the battle for the minor places.
For much of the race it seemed as though Ricciardo, who had qualified on the front row of the grid, would comfortably retain second spot, his Red Bull showing the reliability that the car of his world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel, who was an early retirement, lacked.
Daniel Ricciardo (second), Nico Rosberg (first) and Kevin Magnussen (third) get ready to break out the champagne on the podium. Photo: AFP
But Ricciardo was forced to dig deep in the closing stages as he came under sustained attack from the McLaren of Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, with his teammate, the three-time Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button, working hard to get into the contest.
Magnussen, on debut, threatened but could not quite get there, so the West Australian Ricciardo achieved the best position by a local driver in the Australian race since it became a round of the world championship. The second-placed finish for the ever-smiling Ricciardo was also a career-best performance for him, his previous highest placing being seventh in China and at Monza last year.
Ricciardo was, as might be expected, delighted with the strong showing given the problems Red Bull had during the winter testing period.
Australian Grand Prix - fans and the fast lanes
Highlights from the track, and a look at what the fans are getting up to. Photo: Wayne Taylor
''Three weeks ago, I would have bet pretty much everything I have that we would not be standing up here,'' Ricciardo said on the podium.
He added later, still unaware of the possible fuel consumption hitch: ''We still don't have the pace of Mercedes, but it's a result we will definitely take today and we can take a lot of progress from here. It's a bit overwhelming.''
Rosberg paid tribute to his team for an amazing job with the car, but added: ''We can still improve a lot. The competitors are not going to be asleep.''
At the post-race press conference he added: ''The car was really really quick today. The whole team did such a good job. I didn't have to worry about fuel consumption and the reliability was great.''
Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton lasted only a couple of laps before he was called into the pits to retire his Mercedes because of a misfiring cylinder.
Fortunately for the German squad it was his Silver Arrows sparring partner, Rosberg, who was quickest to begin, making an electric getaway from the second row of the grid to take the lead before the first corner, up and past not just Hamilton but Ricciardo.
It was a lead that the German driver - whose car this year runs with the No.6 in a tribute to his Finnish father Keke, who carried the same number to victory in the 1982 world championship - rarely looked like relinquishing.
Sebastian Vettel, as well as Hamilton, was forced to park his car.
Vettel had also been passed by numerous cars at the start as his Red Bull simply could not deliver its power - something he had been
querying his engineers about during the warm-up laps before the start.
''We realise that there is a big problem. We were losing power. There is no doubt we will fix this, but the question is how soon. We have learnt that the car is quick … if the package comes together we are competitive,'' Vettel said as he walked back to the pits.
The fact that Felipe Massa in his Williams was forced out of business early on had nothing to do with reliability, however, and everything to do with the desperation of Japanese racer Kamui Kobayashi, whose Caterham slammed into the back of the Brazilian at the first turn, ensuring the pair were the first retirements.
Massa, bitterly disappointed that his car did not get a chance to show its merits, called for stewards to look at disciplining Kobayashi.
Massa's frustrations would have been intensified by the performance of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who had an extraordinary race.
The Finn qualified 10th, but had to start from 15th position because he had changed his gearbox before the race. He then worked himself into the top 10 before clouting the wall and losing a wheel on lap 10.
But the 24-year-old simply returned to the pits for repairs and then produced a remarkable drive to first haul himself back up into the top 10, and then continue a charge through the field, passing compatriot Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari on lap 36 to move into fifth position, albeit temporarily.
Bottas eventually finished in a career-high seventh spot.
On any other day his stirring drive might have grabbled plenty of headlines, but huge credit must go to the performance of Magnussen.
The Dane had shocked many with his qualifying performance on Saturday, when he was fourth-fastest, and he showed he was right at home in this company from the start when he made his early move up to third.
He kept his composure as he consolidated that position, and while he could never quite strike a blow at Ricciardo, it was a drive of immense promise.
The anticipated carnage did not quite eventuate. Some had tipped that fewer than half the field might complete the course, so much concern was there about the reliability of the new cars in their new era. But Max Chilton, in the Marussia, was classified as the 14th finisher in a 22-car grid, meaning one-third of the field failed to complete the course.