Lucky escape for Chilton

Marussia driver Max Chilton may not have had a great day of racing yesterday but he was actually a very lucky man to return to the paddock unscathed.

Chilton was very close to being hit on the head with what appears to be part of a tyre that has fallen off during Kimi Raikkonens accident on the opening lap of the race, it is quite unclear whether it is just the tyre carcass or the rim as well but either way it looked a very close and scary incident for Max.

It draws comparisons with the awful accident that Felipe Massa suffered in Hungary 2009 where he was hit on the helmet by a part of the Brawn car of Rubens Barrichello, also it reminds me of the awful loss of Henry Surtees where he was hit by a flying tyre.

I feel that something needs to be done to ensure that these sort of accidents don’t happen and that parts of the cars remain safely on the car, that should anything fall off that it is not being sent into the air and towards other drivers.

It isn’t impossible that the FIA could look into the incident because it is quite clear that Chilton was very close to getting seriously injured and they may well look to fine Ferrari for it, I doubt they will but it can’t be ruled out.

Fortunately though the main thing is that Max is okay and like Kimi, wasn’t hurt.

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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

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

F1 and the Fans.

It may just be me but it looks as if the relationship between F1 drivers and the fans is starting to change, in times gone by it would be rare for a driver to be active on the social networking sites most notably Twitter and the only way the fans could get close to them would be to go to the track or to try to track them down at an event, now it seems that it is all change in my opinion.

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I am often on Twitter and use it frequently to keep updated with what is going on in F1 and in the world in general, but more so than ever I see the teams or the drivers interacting with their fans and it can only be a good thing for both driver and supporter, I know the drivers must be tremendously busy with all sorts of media commitments and sponsorship deals and everything that comes with being a professional racing driver and it says a lot about them that they are wanting to give something back to the fans. It may not be for everyone and it is totally understandable for the drivers to want to try to keep themselves to themselves not be distracted from their racing, At the minute there are only a number of F1 drivers not on Twitter, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are the most notable although in Kimi’s case it would be pointless for him to have Twitter as he doesn’t really say much, though would have no problem then trying to limit himself to 140 characters.

From what I have seen when I have been on Twitter there are a number of drivers and teams that would interact with the fans on a regular basis, for example today, the Mercedes AMG F1 Team account hosted a Q&A with their driver Lewis Hamilton where they invited fans to ask Lewis questions with the hashtag #AskLewis and he would pick out the best ones and respond to them, I’m sure the people who did get an answer from Hamilton were over the moon and rightly so, I would also imagine that Lewis appreciates the support that he gets and was glad he could talk to his supporters, I personally submitted two questions, they weren’t answered but I and hopefully the rest of the fans appreciate the effort that Lewis made to take the time (around 30 minutes) out of his day especially when he is out in Bahrain with testing, to answer questions from the fans all over the world. With more teams and drivers doing this sort of thing, It brings us closer to the driver and I think that can only be good for everyone.

The Class Of 2014 – Part 1

With the 2014 season opener in Melbourne now less than a month away, It is set to be one of the most unpredictable years in the history of the sport and the driver lineups certainly threw up a number of surprises. Lets have a look at the 22 drivers set to be on the grid on March 16th, In this first part we look at Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus.

Red Bull Racing keep hold of their prized asset Sebastian Vettel after he signed a contract extension last June which should see him stay at the Milton Keynes team until the end of the 2015 season, the 26 year old German had been linked with Ferrari but for now he stays at Red Bull and will be looking to win a record equalling 5th consecutive world title, however Vettel will have to deal with a new teammate after his Aussie nemisis Mark Webber announced his F1 retirement last summer after seven years with the team, replacing Webber will be his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo, he steps up from Toro Rosso to drive for the world champions this year, Ricciardo was favoured over Kimi Raikkonen and his Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne, Will that faith in the man who has a best race result of 7th place reward Christian Horner and the team with another Constructors title.

Mercedes are one of only two teams on the grid to keep their driver pairing from last year, Lewis Hamilton enters his second year with the team after a solid first season where he won the Hungarian GP and finished 4th in the Drivers Championship, the Brit again will be partnered by his good friend Nico Rosberg, he had a great year last time out finishing 6th in the championship after earning three poles and winning two races, only finishing 18 points behind Hamilton is quite good considering that Hamilton is regarded as one of, if not, the fastest driver on the grid.

Ferrari will possess the most explosive driver lineup on the grid with Fernando Alonso remaining for another year despite rumours linking him with a move to McLaren, he will be keen to deliver a championship to the Maranello based team, it must be considered that he could quite easily have won two, 2010 and 2012 but both times being pipped by Vettel, the fact that Ferrari have not won a drivers title since 2007 has prompted them to bring back the man that won that title, Kimi Raikkonen returns to the team replacing 2008 champion of around 30 seconds Felipe Massa, only a few years after Raikkonen was replaced quite ironically by Alonso and despite having the opportunity to sign highly rated Nico Hulkenberg it was decided that they would opt for the known quantity of the Finn in a Ferrari.

Lotus, left reeling not only by the loss of Raikkonen but also with the farcical situation involving a possible deal with Quantum Group which led some to believe that they would be able to sign Nico Hulkenberg despite him not coming with much money around him, however the deal never materialised and led the Lotus team that had all season struggled to pay their drivers in a situation where they would need a ‘pay-driver’ to help them in terms of their financial peril, that man is Pastor Maldonado, with his many millions from the PDVSA oil group in his native Venezuela, though lets not forget is a race-winner and has on multiple occasions proved he has the speed to be a top F1 driver. Partnering him at Lotus is arguably the most-improved driver of last year in Romain Grosjean, he like Maldonado had a reputation for being involved in an incident and was often questioned about his ability as a driver, however with 6 podiums he has shown his maturity and the Enstone outfit will be hoping for a similar transition with Maldonado.