New cars, new driver lineup and new rules conspired to make 2014 Australian GP one of the most interesting opening races of the modern F1 era. Hit the jump for our biased recap of this year’s Australian GP.
During pre-season testing many people predicted that the first race of the season would be one of attrition with the top cars limping across the finish line on fumes and rest left on the track in various states of disrepair. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Across the board teams made substantial progress through the practice sessions and by the time qualifying took place on Saturday no one had any doubts that the teams were in Melbourne to race.
Qualifying was a real nail biter. A major rule change for 2014 allows teams an extra set of the weekend’s softest tires to use specifically in the Q3 session of qualifying. As a result we should see everyone out on track during Q3 instead of the recent tire saving strategy that encouraged teams to run as few laps in Q3 as possible.
As a result the Q3 session of the 2014 Australian GP was 12 minutes of all out time attack from the world’s best drivers in the world’s most advanced race cars. Add the mixed conditions over the three qualifying sessions and the results were unexpected to say the least.
For a few fleeting moments Australia’s current F1 hero, Daniel Ricciardo, sat on the Pole position ahead of Nico Rosbert. It wasn’t to be as Hamilton set a blistering time three tenths faster than anyone else on his very last timed lap. Ricciardo’s teammate Vettel struggled and for the first time in nearly 30 races he wasn’t able to get out of Q2, qualifying in a lowly 13th place.
On race day it became immediately apparent that 2014 is going to be an interesting year in Formula 1. Rosberg made a brilliant start and Ricciardo went with him, leaving Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen to battle with the Ferraris.
One the first lap Kobayashi suffered from brake failure and took out Massa. Especially heartbreaking, when you consider how good the Williams team has been running . One lap later Hamilton retired with engine troubles, a real surprise considering the Mercedes team had the most successful test season by far.
On lap three Vettel went into the pits and retired with “power unit” issues while his teammate went on to battle at the front of the field for the entire race. At this point it looks like Vettel is going to have the first real test of his career. For the first time in four years the Red Bull is not the best car in the field and as a result we’re going to see how good Vettel really is.
The 2014 Australian GP really showcased how good Ricciardo might be. Showing strong pace in a car that has struggled during the pre-season Ricciardo was the best of the rest, behind Rosberg, for the entire race. Sadly, a technical violation on the part of Red Bull caused the disqualification of Ricciardo’s car. Regardless of Red Bull’s dubious treatment of the rules Ricciardo is really going to have a chance to show his real speed this year and judging from the Australian GP that could be pretty high.
The rookies didn’t do to bad either. Magnussen drove his McLaren to the podium, the highest place ever or a rookie driver’s first race in Formula 1. Nineteen year old Torro Rosso Driver Daniil Kvyat became the youngest driver ever to score points in F1 by finishing 9th.
While the Red Bull era might be over the absolutely blistering pace of Rosberg’s Mercedes could be the harbinger of a new super team. During the whole race it was very apparent that the Mercedes has dramatically more pace than any other car in the field. Assuming they’re reliable, at this point it would be hard not to imagine a season full of Mercedes 1-2 finishes.
It is much to early to predict the outcome of the 2014 Formula 1 season but there can be no doubt that it will be one of the more interesting seasons in a long time. We’ll do out best to cover it and give you our completely biased opinion.
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