The Formula One season kicked off in style last weekend down under in Australia, and with completely new rules for 2014, there was a lot to look forward to.
Thankfully, the opening race of the season didn’t disappoint.
With lots more torque from the new 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines and the extra oomph from the more powerful energy recovery system and electric motors, qualifying was an interesting session – especially when the rain came.
Just like in pre-season testing, the Mercedes-Benz pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg showed their speed, slotting their cars in first and third places on the grid respectively.
Not much of a shock, given their recent form. However, what was interesting is that Daniel Ricciardo – making his debut last weekend for Red Bull – managed to put his RB10 car into second place on the grid. A special effort given the team’s Renault engines have been plagued by poor reliability.
However, it wasn’t all joyous for the world title winning team. Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel couldn’t manage any more than 13th fastest, meaning he was eliminated from Q2 and started the race from 12th place after a gearbox change for Valtteri Bottas in the Williams gave the Finn a five-place grid penalty.
It was a promising opening for McLaren, too, with new arrival Kevin Magnussen qualifying in fourth. It was a more disappointing session for Jenson Button, starting down in 1oth spot, but his fortunes were too improve come the race.
It was dry on Sunday, meaning the new cars had a real reliability test with the heat and the drivers being able to use maximum throttle in more places.
A delayed start meant the cars sat on the line with temperatures building – this eventually put paid to pole sitter Hamilton’s chances as he retired with engine trouble after only a handful of laps.
The same happened to Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull – the new Renault power unit once again proved troublesome as the team elected to retire the car after three laps and save the engine.
Making a brilliant start from third and with his teammate in the pits, Nico Rosberg romped home to victory, even after a safety car period undid all his hard work.
Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t catch the Mercedes, but finished a strong second in his Red Bull – that was until he was disqualified after the race for an irregularity with his car’s fuel flow meter.
That meant Kevin Magnussen, who crossed the line in third, was promoted to second place on his F1 debut, while Jenson Button was elevated to third in the other McLaren.
It was a stunning result for the Woking-based outfit. As our local F1 squad, we like to get behind the team and we’re pleased to see them starting the 2014 Formula One season with a bang.
Especially after not even scoring a podium last year, to finish the opening race with two this year is fantastic.
Let’s hope the team can continue developing a pace and challenge for victories in the future.
A soecial mention has to go out to Williams driver Valtteri Bottas. After scorching through the field he hit the wall with the rear of his car, breaking the wheel rim and puncturing the tyre.
This left it all to do again for the Finn. But his and the Williams’ raw speed proved pivotal, as Bottas eventually crossed the line in fifth.
It was a disappointing showing for both Lotus and Ferrari. Both the British brand’s cars retired from the race, although having completed more miles than they did in testing, it was a positive result for Lotus.
With two former world champions in the team however, Ferrari would have been hoping for more than fourth and seventh spots for Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen respectively.
Still, there’s a long way to go before the title is decided, and with the development of the new Formula One cars still moving at a ridiculously rapid rate, we’re sure we’ll see plenty of improvement from all teams – no matter what their budget or where the feature on the grid.
That we can’t wait for.