Hamilton wins Formula One season opener

March 16, 2008 at 3:11 PM

MELBOURNE, March 16 (UPI) -- Lewis Hamilton won Sunday's season-opening Formula One Australian Grand Prix auto race in Melbourne.

His No. 22 McLaren-Mercedes crossed the finish line 5.478 seconds ahead of BMW's Nick Heidfeld.

The circuit's reigning rookie of the year, who started in the pole position, captured his fifth career win in a race filled with incidents.

The biggest happened on Lap 25 after Felipe Massa damaged his front nose when he and David Coulthard came together.

Massa and reigning points champion Kimi Raikkonen exited with engine trouble.

The Massa-Coulthard incident also knocked out Sebastien Vettel, Mark Webber, Anthony Davidson and Giancarlo Fisichella.

"It's probably the best race I've had so far in terms of managing tires, controlling my pace and confidence and being comfortable in the car," the 23-year-old Hamilton told the BBC. (But) there are a lot of areas I can improve."

Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen, Reubens Barrichello, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Bourdais completed the points-scoring positions.

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