F1 2014: Round 1 Australia

After 4 long months Formula One if finally back! It promises to be one of the most exciting seasons in years with the rulebook being completely re-written for the 2014 season. The noise making 2.4-litre V8’s of old are gone and replaced with modest but still massive 1.6-litre V6 Turbo’s. The fuel limit per race is just 100kg or 130 litres. This has dropped from 150kg from last season. The new engines don’t use as much fuel and have more power available from hybrid technology or ‘ERs’

ERs stands for Energy Recovery System which does as it sounds, it harnesses energy from braking and stores the energy created into an electric fitted motor to the turbo, this allows the energy that would have been wasted to be re-used to accelerate the car or to just power the car.

Aside from the engine changes the cars have had major front redesigns. The front of the car has to be lowered to just 135mm above the floor for safety reasons. In principal it should be safer for drivers in the case of any t-bone when the nose of a car hits the side of another, making it less likely that the nose of the car could hit driver. And prevents the car from launching into the air when it hits the rear wheels of a car in front (Check out Mark Webber getting flight to see this why this is needed…)

With that complicated but simple explanation of the rules onto the first race…

Given the preseason testing it looked like Mercedes powered engines were head and toe above Renault engines, Ferrarri weren’t boasting that they had the more reliable engines, but were also not shouting about any massive issues, so from start it would be expected Ferrari would be more competitive than Renault engines but Mercedes were the favourites.

And that would prove to be the case after qualification although Daniel Ricciardo had an impressive Redbull Debut and split the silver arrows of the Mercedes team. Hamilton this year’s title favourite sat on P1, Ricciardo in P2, Rosberg P3 and equally impressive debut qualifying session for McLarens Magnussen.

quali

Top 3 for Australia 2014 Qualifications

If I had to pick a favourite team it would be McLaren, I’ve followed them since I started watching F1, but have always had a soft spot for Williams, British team, trying to relive their glory days, It’s just a tale that I’d like to see come true. So the fact that they were also running with Mercedes engines this season and had recruited veteran Massa, the feeling around was that they could throw themselves into the mixer this season as underdogs for podiums.

The car’s went for their parade lap before lights out, but the Marussia of Max Chilton didn’t start. So he was wheeled to the pit for a quick fix and start from pit lane. Once the lap finished yellow flags were out as the other Marussia of Bianchi was also causing issues. This resulted into another parade lap, which was good to save fuel, wasn’t what the drivers really needed. Bianchi was wheeled to the pit lane and fixed frantically in an attempt to get him on track.

Turn one was as far as the returning Kamuai Kobayashi saw of the race and he took the Williams of Massa out too. Hamilton was having issues from the off and was leapfrogged by Rosberg and Ricciardo. Magnussen made a great start and kept himself in 4th place, eventually taking 3rd place off Hamilton who had to retire from the race. While this was happening one of the surprise quali results Vettel in 12th was not making progress through the field, and found him-self overtaken by Max Chilton in the Marussia. His fears were confirmed and his Renault Redbull had to retire from the race. 2 former world champions gone before the race really got going.

The Williams of Bottas was fast approaching a podium place making his way through the field; with a sweet overtake of fellow Finn Raikkonen. Unfortunately for him all the promise he was showing appeared to disappear when he clipped a wall and his read tyre exploded. He pitted and came back out in 17th. The benefit here to everyone who was falling behind Rosberg was a safey car was called to remove the debris from Bottas tyre.

Once the safety car returned Button found himself in a better position pitting earlier than a few of the cars ahead of him, and ended up ahead of Alonso, Raikkonen and Bottas. Bottas continued to make his way up the field and finally finished 6th.

Magnussen on his debut made an impressive 3rd place to claim a podium McLaren have been wanting for so long, and Ricciardo made the dream Redbull debut finishing 2nd with Rosberg a clear winner.

mags

A dream debut for Magnessen

However unfortunately for the Aussie, it was found out he was running with too high a fuel rate and was stripped of his 2nd place finish with Magnussen being promoted to 2nd and Button to 3rd. While unfortunate there is reason to be optimistic for him for the rest of the season as he managed to bring an unfancied Renault engine to 2nd without any engine failures. Vettel must be wondering is this how Mark Webber felt for numerous seasons. So from a McLaren fan point of view I was very happy with the race result, and genuinely found the race interesting from the off. I enjoyed seeing rookie drives such as Magnussen and Kvyat scoring in the points and having strong races.

ricc

The smiles didn’t last long…

My Driver of the race is Bottas due to his impressive start, unfortunate accident to then push his way back through the grid for a great point scoring position. Would he have finished higher had he not clipped that wall?

Moment of the race was a collection of many involving Raikkonen. He just couldn’t adjust to the breaking of his Ferrari and found himself locking up numerous times. On one of his lock ups he gifted Bottas an overtake.

Roll on Malaysia.

– Murr

So the F1 is back, and with a bit of a bang. For me the shining performance of the race had to be Magnussen at McLaren. A complete F1 rookie, he looked cool and composed all weekend, and even more so during the race. This was exemplified as he easily passed Hamilton on the outside through turn 10, Ok it was made slightly easier by the fact that Hamilton had problems, but he didn’t know that. Picking up McLarens first podium for over a year is something not to be scoffed at. McLaren are already looking like they could be a real contender this season.

I think it was pretty clear to see that the teams aren’t quite sure on the new cars, with almost half the field dropping out for various reasons including reliability. And I wonder if this has pulled the wool over people’s eyes a little bit for some drivers performances. Would Torro Rosso have done so well had the other drivers still been in the race? Maybe. But I get the feeling that there will be a lot more competition for the ‘mid sized’ teams.

Lotus endured a pretty terrible opening race with both drivers out of the race, and generally struggling all weekend. Redbull must also be feeling gutted scoring no points after Ricciardos DQ.

I have a sense of renewed optimism for this season to be a lot more competitive, and am eagerly awaiting Malaysia in two weeks time.

-Will

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