Changing of the guard

If one thing was evident during the Australian GP, it was that the talk that the 2014 era would favour the more experienced drivers on the grid was totally wrong, the main stand out performances came from the youngster and in particular three men, Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat.

Magnussen has been on McLaren’s radar for a long time now and after winning the FR3.5 series, the next step was for him to replace the disappointing Sergio Perez for the 2014 season.

Fast forward to the Australian GP and the Dane had impressed in testing but the big question was, could he do it on a F1 race weekend, he silenced any doubters immediately with his solid performances during the practice sessions, he followed this up with a hugely impressive 4th place on the grid in what was a tricky Q3 for all the drivers, he had now shown he had the raw pace but was the race craft there? Again he proved his ability with a stunning drive which saw him battle throughout the race with Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo, after the Australian got disqualified it meant that Magnussen had secured 2nd on his Formula 1 debut, one place better of than the debut of the last rookie to race for McLaren, Lewis Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas enjoyed the better of his more experienced team mate last year as he out-pointed Pastor Maldonado although the fact was that it was one of the worst seasons in the history of the Williams team, with huge changes at the Grove based outfit over the winter, including a new team-mate in Felipe Massa, could he show his talent this year?

Judging on the Finns performance at Albert Park, he is going to have a great year, despite a poor qualifying performance which was made worse by a grid penalty which had him starting from 15th, he fought his way through the midfield runners before colliding with the wall sending him back to the pits with a puncture, despite that setback Bottas came back again and finished well in the points in 5th place.

Perhaps the biggest surprise from the first race weekend was the performance of Toro Rosso teen Daniil Kvyat, his selection last year surprised many within the F1 paddock but his debut was one to remember,

The Russian had a few nervy moments during the practice sessions although what else would you expect from a teenager making his debut in F1, however he recovered from this in qualifying and coped with the wet conditions superbly putting himself 8th on the grid and followed that with a solid drive to finish 9th, in doing so he became the youngest ever points scorer in F1 history, not a bad way to announce yourself to the Formula 1 world.

Many said before the season started that experience would be vital in the new era of F1 but as it turns out it may be the youngsters like Magnussen, Bottas and Kvyat that can become the new faces of the sport.

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Australian GP – Rosberg win overshadowed by fuel flow farce

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Nico Rosberg crushed the rest of the field on his way to winning the season opening Australian GP ahead of the McLaren duo of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, the race was filled with drama throughout the 57 laps and in the case of Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo, much later into the Melbourne night.

The race and with it the 2014 season started after not one, but two formation laps, the Marussia cars both unable to get off the grid so they joined Romain Grosjean in the pit lane, eventually the race was ready to start.

The lights went out and the battle to lead into turn 1 was close, Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton got a poor start and was pounced on by his team-mate Nico Rosberg and then Ricciardo although it would turn out that the Brit had a big problem which contributed to the lack of pace he had, as for the rest, Kevin Magnussen did very well to keep his car facing the right way after his tyres spun out nearly taking him into Alonso, Raikkonen got a decent start and took a few places as did Bottas however his Williams team-mate Felipe Massa would take no further part after he was smashed in the rear by Kobayashi in his Caterham, it had a brakes problem and that was both their races over.

Then came the retirements of two of the major players as Lewis Hamilton retired after just 4 laps with a misfiring cylinder, he would be followed by Sebastian Vettel only a few moments later with a loss of power in his Red Bull.

Williams remaining driver Bottas was on a charge, that was until he brushed the wall at turn 10 which left him with a rear right puncture forcing him into the pits and forcing the safety car out for the first time this season, in and around that period the majority of the field pitted, it would work into the hands of Button as he jumped a few places up to sixth.

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From the moment the safety car returned to the pits it was even more clear that Rosberg was going to be far into the distance and that was exactly the case as he charged to the chequered flag, Ricciardo and Magnussen looked set for a podium but they battled until the end of the race with the Red Bull man edging out the Danish rookie who had done a great race to score a podium on his McLaren and F1 debut, just behind that duo was Jenson Button in 4th, a great drive for him coming from tenth on the grid.

Bottas had managed to fight his way back through the field and may be left to wonder how much the puncture cost him but despite that he came home 6th ahead of Force India star Nico Hulkenberg in 7th, the German once again showed his talent as he kept the car always in contention for the points.whilst it was not a good day for Ferrari, problems limiting Alonso and Raikkonen to 5th and 8th, they were followed by another Italian team, Toro Rosso managed to keep both cars in the points after their excellent qualifying display, Vergne took 9th while a piece of history was made as Daniil Kvyat secured 10th to become the youngest ever points scorer in F1 taking the record from Sebastian Vettel.

Perez finished the race just outside the points in 11th and was the last of the drivers on the lead lap. Sutil in 12th along with Gutierrez and the Marussia of Max Chilton finished a lap behind the race winner Rosberg.

As for those who failed to finish, it was a number of issues, Bianchi was always playing catch up after his problems at the start, Lotus didn’t finish either but compared to their earlier pace or lack of it, it was good that Grosjean got 45 laps in before eventually calling it a day and the rest were a combination of problems.

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However… Soon after the race, rumours began to circulate that Ricciardo was under investigation for a fuel flow irregularity, the issue had seemingly been highlighted by the FIA earlier in the weekend but Red Bull claim that the FIA equipment that they use to measure the fuel however around six hours later it was confirmed that Ricciardo was disqualified from the race, Red Bull have confirmed that they will appeal the decision.

1) Rosberg – Mercedes
2) Magnussen – McLaren
3) Button – McLaren
4) Alonso – Ferrari
5) Bottas – Williams
6) Hulkenberg – Force India
7) Raikkonen – Ferrari
8) Vergne – Toro Rosso
9) Kvyat – Toro Rosso
10) Perez – Force India

Australian GP – Qualifying Report


The first qualifying of the 2014 season provided an opportunity to see this years crop of cars out on track and perhaps a chance to establish an 
early pecking order, however it would turn out not to be the case, instead it would be a dramatic hour with rain set to cause mayhem and a few surprises thrown in.

Q1 was the only session that had any dry laps but that would change later in the session, as the rain that had been forecasted closed in on the track, it would be home favourite Daniel Ricciardo that would top the timesheet in the first session however the weekend continues to get worse for troubled Lotus as both Grosjean and Maldonado spent more time in the gravel traps than on the track which meant neither of them progressed to Q2, Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi put in a great lap to sneak through into the second session, the same couldn’t be said for Esteban Gutierrez as he failed to get out of the bottom six, Max Chilton out qualifies his Marussia team-mate Jules Bianchi, something he failed to do too often last year.

Q2 was more affected by the worsening conditions with drivers struggling around the track, a number of spins and brushes with the barriers was the theme of this session and it would end with three world champions being knocked out therefore failing to reach the top 10 shootout for pole position, the first of these was Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, he had a spin which sent him into the wall which meant the end of his session and also the waving of the yellow flags, this meant that the drivers would be very unlikely to improve on their current lap times meaning that both Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel would end up in the middle of the grid, in Vettels case it was to the joy of the Albert Park crowd as cheers were loud signalling his failure followed by boos as he walked back to the Red Bull garage, the top ten had a few surprise names, most notably the two Toro Rosso drivers Jean Eric Vergne but most impressive was the Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat.

The top ten battle started with the rain refusing to stop and getting worse it would be a tricky task for anyone to get a good clear lap, it would be a lottery, Mercedes outlined their pace that has been evident all weekend and had looked set for pole with Rosberg but then came a major shock when the sole remaining Red Bull RB10 of Ricciardo crossed the line to move into top spot, it seemed that they had pulled off the ultimate comeback after a difficult winter but there was still one man left to complete his lap.. That man was Lewis Hamilton, known for his ability in the rain and also as this years championship favourite, he showed exactly why as he took pole position by just over a tenth of a second.

Williams struggled to show their pace in the rain and Massa qualified 9th and Bottas 10th although the Finn will fall to 15th because of a penalty, they will be hoping for a dry race tomorrow, the surprise team must be Toro Rosso, the Red Bull juniors secured 6th with Vergne and a great debut from Kvyat that saw him get 8th, on that performance the young Russian looks set to have a long career in F1, after all he is only 19, however not the best rookie on the grid, that would be Kevin Magnussen, he had the pure pace over a lap and starts 4th hoping that he can follow Hamilton in getting a podium on his McLaren debut as the Brit did in 2007.

It is set up perfectly for a fascinating race tomorrow and with the problems that teams have had getting used to the new era in F1 along with the added prospect of rain it will be interesting to see how it all pans out, It should be a good one, Remember the race starts at 0600 GMT tomorrow morning, don’t miss it!

Hamilton
Ricciardo
Rosberg
Magnussen
Alonso
Vergne
Hulkenberg
Kvyat
Massa
Button
Raikkonen
Vettel
Sutil
Kobayashi
Bottas
Perez
Chilton
Bianchi
Ericsson
Grosjean
Gutierrez
Maldonado

 

Australian GP Preview

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The wait is almost over for the start of the 2014 F1 season, it is already looking as though it could be one of the most unpredictable and intriguing campaigns for many years, with huge rule changes being introduced for this season many teams have struggled to adapt and suffered in testing and the speculation is that around half the field may retire before the chequered flag drops.

As it is the first race of the season, anything could happen at Albert Park on Sunday so don’t be surprised if the usual backmarkers are fighting for a point at the end of the race, few people actually know how the race will unfold in terms of fuel saving and how much slower the 2014 cars may be compared to their predecessors.

Testing provided a very early idea what the pecking order could be this season, the teams that looked good were mainly powered by Mercedes although Ferrari appeared to be in the mix as well, although the surprise package almost certainly is Williams, they look very strong and probably are the closest challenger to Mercedes. On the other hand, Red Bull and Lotus had poor winters and could struggle in Melbourne, although this is only the start of the season so they have plenty of time to recover.

Australia’s Albert Park is a good place to start the season, the track often provides excitement and some drama with its part race part street circuit feel, as well as this the weather may play an important part over the course of the weekend.

It should be a very interesting race and with so many changes to the sport, it may well be filled with surprises, only at the weekend will we find out.

Australian GP Schedule (all times in GMT)
Friday
Practice 1 – 01:30—03:00
Practice 2 – 05:30—07:00
Saturday
Practice 3 – 03:00—04:00
Qualifying – 06:00—07:00
Sunday
Race – 06:00

2014 Australian GP Facts
• Three drivers make their F1 debut this weekend, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.

• Only two teams will run the same pairing that they had for the 2013 race, Marussia with Bianchi and Chilton and Mercedes with Hamilton and Rosberg

• Although it is unlikely to happen, Sebastian Vettel could win a record tenth consecutive Grand Prix having been on the top step since the Belgium GP last August.

• A poor qualifying session isn’t the end of a drivers weekend, around 45% of races in Australia have been won by a driver not starting on pole and David Coulthard won from 11th on the grid in 2003.

The Chequered Flag Blog Prediction

“I think that the Mercedes are clearly the team to beat and I think Hamilton could have the edge over Rosberg this weekend, I wouldn’t count Williams out at all and think that they will get a podium, I know Massa doesn’t have the best record at Melbourne but he looks refreshed and ready to go now for his new team, behind those three I think it could be mostly Mercedes cars in the points with Ferrari in there as well”
1. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
3. Felipe Massa – Williams

The Final Test – Preview

Tomorrow sees the start of the final pre-season test in Bahrain, it is the last chance for the teams to get an idea of how they will shape up for the first race in Melbourne and for some of the teams it will be about sorting out reliability issues that have hampered their running so far this year, for others it is about trying to discover any hidden problems before the season starts properly in two weeks time. It may also provide an opportunity for teams that have looked good, such as Mercedes, to run at full power and show their real pace, the majority of teams will bring upgrades to the car in the hope that it unlocks that vital extra few tenths of a second in performance.

The main focus for this test is how the Renault powered teams get on and if they continue to suffer problems as they have done all season, Renault haven’t hidden the fact that they are weeks behind schedule and it is clear that they have a job on their hands, although it would seem that for Red Bull it isn’t just a struggle with the Renault technology but infact that the RB10 is nowhere near as competitive as its predecessors, if they don’t turn it round then 2014 will be a long year for them and it could be a repeat of what happened last year with McLaren where they failed to score a podium.

Another major talking point is how quick the Mercedes can go, it was clearly the fastest car in the previous test and it won’t be a surprise if that trend continues over the next few days, especially if they decide to run at full power and bring upgrades to the car.

The Mercedes powered teams will again look to top the timesheets as they have done throughout the entire pre-season but look out for Ferrari because they appear to be the closest challengers to Mercedes and McLaren and they will hope to close the gap during this test.

Testing is only testing so it is very hard to tell what way the grid is shaping up due to different fuel loads, tyres and how hard the drivers are pushing, the only thing we can do until the first race weekend is guess.