Australian Grand Prix 2014

Boom! It’s back. A new era of Formula 1 has arrived and I am PSYCHED. The season seems to have come around quick this year. The challenging new rule changes and specifications has made car launches and winter testing incredibly fascinating this year and the media has revelled in this new generation of Formula 1.

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Qualifying came around Saturday morning and we finally got to see the 22 cars competing against each other for the first time. Q1 brought rain to Albert Park and some unfamiliar results. Both Lotus drivers were rock bottom with Maldonado even failing to set a time whilst Kobayashi made a triumphant return to F1 managing to get his Caterham into Q2.

Q2 dried up a bit but saw some upset as Raikkonen managed to drive his new Ferrari into the wall. Yellow flags prevented Vettel from putting in a competitive lap, much to the delights of the Australian crowd.

With Vettel missing out on the top ten shoot out, it was up to teammate Ricciardo to try and put Red Bull back on top after an awful pre season. Ricciardo was, surprisingly, the only man on the grid able to challenge championship favourites Mercedes with everyone else falling over a second behind. In the end it was Hamilton’s precise driving skills which prevailed to put his car on pole for the season opener. Yey.

There was no struggle to get up at 5am on Sunday morning, mainly because of the excitement but also because I woke up on sofa having fell asleep to Family Guy the night before. Not having to move other than reaching for the remote, I geared up to watch the race. As the countdown begins, there’s a few questions which come to mind.

Can Rosberg outsmart Hamilton and challenge him for the win? Toto has made it clear that this year there’ll be no team orders at Mercedes and that they are keen to see their two drivers race against each other.

Can Ricciardo hold his nerve? This is the first time Dan (Dan, who am I his girlfriend?…Maybe someday) has started on the front row surrounded by the F1 elite. It’s also going to be interesting to see if yesterday’s P2 performance was a fluke or whether a Red Bull really can bring a challenge to Mercedes.

Can the likes of Button, Alonso or Raikkonen catch up to the front runners? Although McLaren and Ferrari have not had the worst pre season this year, they haven’t really impressed us yet.

It was nice to see Brundle back on the grid getting everyone’s final thoughts on the race ahead. Aussie star Dannii Minogue was on the grid backing F1’s remaining Australian Daniel Ricciardo, having replaced local hero, Mark Webber. Ricciardo was looking incredibly relaxed on the front row, despite being swamped with engineers and reporters.

It was interesting to hear that Magnussen has refuses to talk to press on the grid, by request of his father, Le Mans driver Jan Magnussen. It seems his record breaking  P4 rookie start is not the only similarity he share with Lewis Hamilton, the Brit famous for refusing grid interviews under his father’s management.

“The talking stops now ” Nico Hulkenberg.

As the rest of the drivers leave the grid, Max Chilton fails to follow the rest of the field through the formation lap, as his Marussia stands stationary at the back. A problem with the second Marussia means the field has to do a second lap before lights out.

With 3 cars now staring from the pits, the lights turn green and the Australian Grand Prix begins. Rosberg gets a flying start and takes the lead before the first corner. Magnessum is close to hitting the wall on his first F1 start but manages to keep focused and take P3. Kobayashi loses control of his Caterham down the straight and takes the Williams of Massa out with him.

Hamilton’s car is struggling as he ends up in P5 after the first two laps. It’s obvious something serious is up with the Mercedes and having only managed 3 laps, Hamilton comes in to retire. Reigning champion Vettel only manages two more as he retires on lap 5.

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With four retirements already, the rest of the field try to avoid becoming number five and batte it out for position. Whilst Rosberg gains a four second lead over Ricciardo, Bottas is the fastest man on the track, weaving his way through the field. Bottas seems a little to keen though and as he pushes a little too hard, his rear right hits the hall. Punctured, the tyre flies off the wheel barrel bringing out the safety car.

Rosberg pits before picking up the safety car as do the rest of the field. Having spread out, the top three now find themselves bunched up behind the safety car, ready to fight for position once more. It’s a clean start though and after pitting for new tyres, Bottas is again pushing his Williams to the limits, charging passed Maldonado to P11.

As Rosberg increases his lead to 5 seconds, the Red Bull team tell Ricciardo to push hard as they do not need to save fuel. Seems it’s a little too late though as Rosberg’s mighty Mercedes keeps gaining a one second advantage per lap.

By lap 31 there’s two futher retirements, Caterham rookie Ericsson and Lotus new guy, Maldonado.

Raikkonen continues to feel underwhelmed by his Ferrari and is over taken by Bottas for the second time this race.

By lap 37 Rosberg has an 18 second lead over Ricciardo who is now under threat by Magnussen who is looking to prove his status as the most successful F1 rookie.

“There’s a great future for F1, it’s not just for rich kids” Martin Brundle. 

As Grosjean becomes the 7th retirement of this season opener, Magnussen is told to back off to try and protect his rear tyres.

As the race starts to come to an end, theirs no backing off for Bottas who overtakes Vergne and Hulkenberg to hold an impressive P6…The checkered flag waves as Rosberg takes the easiest win of his career so far followed by an odd defying Ricciardo in second and impressive rookie Magnussen in third.

Button comes 4th, giving McLaren a head start in the championship and an underwhelming Alonso completes the top 5.

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As the top three take to the podium, it’s obvious to anyone that race winner Rosberg is dreaming of that first championship. Although this is a possibility, it’s a massive shame that Hamilton was unable to compete against his teammate. Turns out his engine had blown one of it’s cylinders which explained his total lack of power. During post race interviews, Hamilton seemed understanding of reliability issues and happy that his teammate was able to take their team to victory. A DNF during the first race of the season is really not ideal, given all the other teams and drivers will have their first realistic set of data during race conditions. Hamilton’s 5 lap race does not really set him up well for the next in Malaysia. However, if there’s going to be reliability issues, it’s best to smoke them out early on. On a slightly bitchier note, Rosberg seemed to give quite an ungracious interview on the podium, hailing the cars reliability without a second thought for his teammate’s bad luck, especially given that it’s likely Lewis would have won had he not suffered the engine failure. Just saying.

Although disappointing for many of the sports past champions, the race has exposed some exciting new talent. The new and improved Williams has shown off a great talent in Bottas, along with McLaren’s Magussen. And who would have bet that Ricciardo could finish on the podium? Even when Vettel’s engineers do sort out his reliability problems, I’m betting Ricciardo can still hold his own next to the world champion, and even continue to better him.

“I’m tripping balls right now” Daniel Ricciardo.

Unfortunately, late Sunday night it was announced that Ricciardo has been disqualified from the race subject to appeal due to exceeding fuel limits. It’s a shame that the Aussie has had his (and his country’s) first home poduim taken off him due to the negligence of his team. This means that Magnussen now breaks the record for the most successful F1 debut, finishing 2nd in the official standings, and strengthens McLaren’s challenge in the constructors championship.

1 down, 18 to go 🙂

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