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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Malaysia GP Preview

A fortnight ago, we all welcomed Formula One back onto the scene at the Australian GP and in doing so witnessed the first step into the unknown that is the 2014 F1 season, after the dominant drive from Nico Rosberg and the DNF’s of his title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel but the main talking point was a decision reached over six hours after the race.

The home favourite Daniel Ricciardo put in a stellar performance to get a 2nd place finish to the delight of the Australian fans and the Red Bull team, but he would have it cruelly taken away from him due to the RB10 breaking a fuel flow rule, he was subsequently disqualified from the race result and the matter will now rage on with Red Bull confirming their appeal of the decision, it is fair to say then that the Malaysia GP should be another dramatic race in the soaring heat of the Sepang circuit.

Malaysia, of course is a site of controversy, just think back 12 months to the race last year and the now infamous Multi-21 incident involving the Red Bull team and their drivers Vettel and Mark Webber but the main controversy as mentioned is the appeal to the exclusion of Ricciardo from the results.

The Sepang international circuit is a much more proper purpose built race track than Albert Park and with the long straights and fast corners we can expect a good race, add to this of course the weather in Kuala Lumpar, in recent years it has been more unpredictable than the pecking order of the 2014 season itself, that pecking order may become somewhat more clear on Sunday.

It promises to be an interesting weekend with many teams and the fans still somewhat in the dark about where everyone sits in terms of the pecking order.

The all important times for the weekend are as follows and remember that the clocks go forward by one hour so adjust the alarms!!!

Friday
Practice 1 – 02:00 – 03:30
Practice 2 – 06:00 – 07:30
Saturday
Practice 3 – 05:00 – 06:00
Qualifying – 08:00 – 09:00
Sunday
Race – 09:00

The Chequered Flag Blog Prediction

I think that it will be another Mercedes domination although the DNF of Hamilton showed that they are not totally there with reliability, behind them are a number of teams, Williams, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull but with the lack of reliability, a few of those cars may not finish so the midfield teams may once again be able to snatch a point or two, my prediction is:
1. Rosberg 2. Hamilton 3. Bottas

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

 

Testing Review – Part 1

Mercedes
A great test for Mercedes in Bahrain, they were both very quick and reasonably reliable throughout the four days finishing in and around the front for the first half of the test and then with the fastest laps of the final two days with Lewis Hamilton on Friday and with Nico Rosberg today, things are looking very good for them and so far they are the team that the rest of the field will be trying to beat come Melbourne.
Key stats
Hamilton fastest lap – 1.34.263 (Day 3)
Rosberg fastest lap – 1.33.283 (Day 4)
Laps completed – 315

McLaren
Compared to this time last year, McLaren are in a far better situation and look as if they are the closest challengers to Mercedes and have been there or thereabouts throughout the test in terms of lap times, also as Jenson Button showed on Day 3, they are looking very good for reliability as he set 103 laps. Magnussen has quickly adapted to F1 and topped the times on Day 2.
Key stats
Button fastest lap – 1.34.957 (Day 4)
Magnussen fastest lap – 1.34.910 (Day 2)
Laps completed – 296

Ferrari
Ferrari are making steady progress and are the only team not using Mercedes engines to be in and around the top end, although it is clear they haven’t got the speed at the moment to beat the Mercedes and McLaren, they no doubt will improve throughout the season and will be challenging for wins at some point, they may need to get on top of reliability problems first though.
Key stats
Alonso fastest lap – 1.36.516 (Day 2)
Raikkonen fastest lap – 1.36.718 (Day 4)
Laps completed – 287

Force India
Another team with the Mercedes power that are looking good this season with their new pairing of Hulkenberg and Perez, Hulkenberg went quickest on Day 1 and since then have remained somewhat close to the top, as things are they could be looking at their best season so far although they may be slightly disappointed with the number of laps they set over the course of the test.
Key stats
Hulkenberg fastest lap – 1.36.455 (Day 2)
Perez fastest lap – 1.37.367 (Day 3)
Laps completed – 213

Williams
Williams will be very pleased with their switch from Renault to Mercedes engines and from what we have seen in testing, they are on course for a good season and certainly a far better one than in recent years, They will be aiming for a decent haul of points this year.
Key stats
Massa fastest lap – 1.37.066 (Day 3)
Bottas fastest lap – 1.37.328 (Day 2)
Nasr fastest lap – 1.37.569 (Day 4)
Laps completed – 323

Bahrain Testing – Day One Times

  1. Hulkenberg – Force India – 78 laps – 1.36.880
  2. Alonso – Ferrari – 64 laps – 1.37.879 (+0.999)
  3. Hamilton – Mercedes – 74 laps – 1.37.908 (+1.028)
  4. Magnussen – McLaren – 81 laps – 1.38.295 (+1.415)
  5. Vettel – Red Bull – 14 laps – 1.40.244 (+3.344)
  6. Sutil – Sauber – 81 laps – 1.40.443 (+3.563)
  7. Frijns – Caterham – 67 laps – 1.42.590 (+5.710)
  8. Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 5 laps – 1.44.346 – (+7.466)
  9. Grosjean – Lotus – 8 laps – 1.44.832 (+7.952)
  10. Massa – Williams – 5 laps – no time
  11. Bianchi – Marussia – 3 laps – no time

I will post a review of the entire test when it has finished on Saturday going through each team and what we have learned from the test.

Rookie Report – Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen has had a sharp rise through the junior series through his short career to date, having started in Formula Ford in Denmark with a stellar debut season the stats certainly don’t lie as Kevin put himself on pole 6 times and set 10 fastest laps but most importantly he won 11 of the 16 races on his way to sealing the championship, he won the championship in his debut season by 17 points and the way in which he did it made it very clear that the young Dane was well on his way to greater things.

In 2009 Kevin moved on from Formula Ford and raced in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC category and again impressed a lot of people with the way he was able to adapt to a new car and was on the pace from the start, although being beaten to the championship by Antonio Felix Da Costa, Magnussen still was a constant presence on the podium finishing there 12 times in the 14 races with a race win included in that, he also set two pole positions which again outlined his speed over a single lap.

In 2010 he raced in the ATS Formula 3 Cup alongside the likes of Daniel Abt and Tom Dillman, despite Kevin finishing 3rd in the championship, it was another season full of regular podium finishes with 8 over the course of the 18 race season, he secured three wins and was only 24 points away from winning the title, Kevin also had a spell in Formula 3 Euro Series taking part in two races, one of which he actually won, it was the first time that Magnussen had come up against future F1 stars like Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez and in no way did he look out of depth and again made many people take notice of his talents.

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In 2011, Magnussen took part in British F3 for the Carlin team and as he had done throughout his career adapted to the new series and car remarkably quickly, qualifying on pole 6 times and winning 7 races over the course of the season to end as runner-up behind Felipe Nasr but the talent was clearly there and it was starting to become more a matter of when than if he made the step up to Formula 1.

2012 saw Kevin enter Formula Renault 3.5 and whilst he had to settle for 7th in the championship, he was still progressing very well and outperformed his Carlin team-mate Will Stevens quite comfortably, Magnussen took 3 pole positions and 3 podiums with one of those being a race win, at the end of the season he took part in the Formula 1 Young Driver test at the Yas Marinas Circuit in Abu Dhabi and he stole the show and produced a 1.42.651, which was the fastest time of the entire three days of testing and was only 2 seconds shy of the pole lap set in the same car by Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi race weekend, not bad for a young man who was making his first appearance in an F1 car, the sheer speed of Magnussen impressed the paddock and McLaren technical director Sam Michael said “His pace, consistency and engineering feedback were all excellent, Given his performance, he certainly didn’t look like a guy who had never turned a wheel before in a modern F1 car before the start of the week.”

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Magnussen was now preparing for his second season in FR3.5 and had moved to DAMS in order to improve his chances of challenging for the title and he produced a great season winning 5 races along with sticking his car on pole 8 times and getting on the podium 13 times as he claimed the championship by 60 points from fellow McLaren backed young driver Stoffel Vandoorne, whilst winning the title he also was involved in the efforts of McLaren to try to turn around their poor season by carrying out simulator work in the MTC. As a result of this poor season from the McLaren team, Sergio Perez was released after just one season at the team and the young Dane was given the call to replace him for 2014, A massive sign of trust and belief in Magnussen from the bosses at Woking, after all the last time they had put a rookie in their car was Lewis Hamilton in 2007 and of course Kevin’s father, Jan Magnussen in 1995 as a replacement for the sidelined Mika Hakkinen

So, fast forward to Jerez for the pre-season tests and the spotlight was on the Dane, not that anyone could tell that by the way he drove, putting in the fastest lap on his first day of testing, the signs of the talent that he possesses have always been clear and I think that he will be a huge success in the sport, Good Luck Kevin.