For 23 years in a row now, I have been getting up early mornings for the one sport I`ve always loved, Formula One, the queen of motorised sports. Whether they kicked off with the dual fly away to Brazil and Argentina, or started on the Phoenix circuit in the USA, or to Kyalami in South Africa, and the past decennium (almost always) in Albert Park, Melbourne... my wake up call had been set in the local early morning.
This year, I`m going to try and make hard on my promise of last year, and bring a full report of each Grand Prix. Over the years, I perhaps have missed a dozen, and I ain`t planning on changing it this year, social appointments will have to be set at other times then! Spread my words, make me become a top Formula One reporter with behind the scenes pit access, I promise to bring back a lot of pictures of pit girls hehehehe.
Of course the reviews are going to be biased, I`m not a journalist and I`m not affiliated with anything, and I am a Ferraristi at heart (okay, I can`t stand Alonso, though I`d be the first to admit he is the driver with the most `full package` of skill and talent), with sympathies for Williams (they even have by far the most beautiful car this season with the Martini livery!) and little Caterham (though i do miss the yellow in their colourscheme this season).
The race started off with Grosjean having to start in the pitlane, as he had broken the 15 minutes before the start signal to leave the pits, but he would soon be joined by more cars. Max Chilton couldn`t get his car of the start line during the first formation round, so a second one was required and Chilton queed behind the frenchman.
However, in this second formation lap, it was the other Marussia of Jules Bianchi that didn`t take off, and had to go as well to the pitlane. He wouldn`t start for another 8 laps though, and then went out on a data gathering spree, a wise choice considering the lack of test laps the team had gotten in this winter, and finished the race though he didn`t got classified.
And so we finally went off for the first charge to the very first corner of the season, and Kamui in his Caterham started like a rocket, then to fail the braking point and slid off with smoking tyres at a high velocity, taking Massa and his Williams with him like a torpedo... great start of the season for my sympathies.
Rosberg took the lead immediatly from Hamilton after a great start, as did Hulkenberg who jumped to fourth. I can`t understand while struggling top teams keep overlooking the german as a candidate, he is one of the best drivers on the grid out there.
Before the 10th lap has been driven, we already lost two `top liners` with Vettel and Hamilton, both having to retire with issues, but seeing how Ricciardo qualified 2nd and kept following the Mercedes pace more or less, it shouldn`t be any panic in the Red Bull camp.
Lap 12: After a strong going, Bottas in the remaining Williams clips the wall and loses his rear tyre after a failed attack on Raikonnen. He can pit and resume in 16th position.
A first conclusion already after a dozen laps, I don`t like the new `brumming` sound of those V6 Turbo Hybrid engines, they don`t scream anymore as they did in the more then 2 decennia I already followed the sports. Where has that high pitched wail of the Ferrari V12 gone...
Lap 21: Bottas has returned in a point scoring position, confirming what the wintertests had already made suspect, namely that the Williams might best be `the car to watch`, especcially in the first part of the season during the fly aways where teams can do little changes to their cars. On a similar note, it turns out that Ferrari hasn`t been playing `laying low` as watchers suspected during the tests. They genuinly seem to be half to a second of the regular pace, so it`ll be counting down for them to the first upgrade pack and hope that the Mercedes doesn`t take to far a lead already (remember 2009 and Button in the Brawn GP).
Lap 25: Bottas keeps pushing up, being forced to do home improvements with the girlfriend during the winter break seems to be paying off better then an extended sunny location exotic holiday.
Lap 29: The remaining Caterham, who even though having been at the beginning of the race around 11th position and duking it out with the lower midfield (which seems for now to become Sauber, Lotus and in a lesser degree Force India and Toro Rosso, the latter seem the fatser of the pack, but the Force India has the by far better driver with Hulkenberg, who has already started devouring Perez from the start of the season), both them and the Marussia of Chilton gradually had to losen the pace. I wonder what they could have done had it indeed been Kovalainen getting the second seat instead of the inexperience Swede. Still, not a bad debut race at all, but as the Renault engine gave way, was this to become a sign of things to come for the french engine manufacturer?
Lap 31: Maldonado`s Lotus Renault retires out of the blue.
Lap 34 - 39: The Pit Dance commences, and who will benefit the most? Rosberg himself, still in the lead, safely pits in lap 38 and retains his lead, but behind them it is Button that benefits the most, coming out on a 4th place. Not bad at all from the McLaren squad after their annus horribilis 2013.
Lap 45: Exit Romain Grosjean as the second Lotus Renault gives up. Stress must be rising with the three remaining Renault cars on track.
Lap 47: Bottas continues his charge as he overtakes Vergne for 7th.
Lap 49: Rosberg now has a safe lead of over 22 seconds on Ricciardo, confirming what the winter tests showed and that Mercedes will be the team to beat this year. Their `Five Year Plan` seems to fall together perfectly for a charge at the title.
Lap 52: Bottas continues to impress in the Williams as he takes on Hulkenberg and steams to 6th place. Where could he have been if he had not made that slight error on the 12th lap that costed him a lot of time! I honestly think, putting aside favoritism, he could have been a podium contender then.
Lap 53: Magnussen, the rookie in the McLaren, is told by the team to start conserving fuel and secure the podium just as he was starting his offensive on Ricciardo. This could have been a nail biting final few laps, but now it all settles down nicely.
Lap 57: Rosberg takes the first win of the season with a fat lead of over 22 seconds before Ricciardo and Magnussen. Bar penalties and exclusions that always *could* come after a race, the point scoreres are complemented by Button in 4th, Alonso in 5th, Bottas in 6th, 7th place for Hulkenberg, Raikonnen coming 8th and 9th and 10th being taken by both Toro Rosso`s, respectively by Vergne and Kvyat.
This means three teams managed to put their cars in the points (McLaren, Ferrari... and Toro Rosso, one each of an engine manufacturer) and while the Mercedes engine is proving to be the power source of the moment (5 out of 10, 2 on the podium) it is actually the Renault engine with a podium and three point finishes that outscore the Ferrari power source. Bit of a suprise after the tests this winter!
My personal driver of the race was not Bottas as you might suspect, but Kevin Magnussen. A rookie, qualifying fourth and ending on the podium in his first race in a wholy re-designed sport is quite a feat in my book.
Honorable mensions should go to 19 year old Daniel Kvyat, the other rookie in the Toro Rosso scoring his first point in the attiration war that was Melbourne, and... Max Chilton. This last one is often critized for being a pay driver with no talent, but he finished each and every grand prix last year, and continues that streak today wihtout being a `living chicane` as we had pay drivers do in the famous years like 1994 (the `infamous` year of the Pay Driver, but also of Senna`s demise, now 20 years ago...). Just remember Deletraz... enough said. Poor Max isn`t that bad at all as the cowboys of those days.
On a team level, I was at first inclined to say McLaren, as they had a rookie on the podium and both cars in the points. However, I`m not, instead going for Toro Rosso. Considering how small that outfit is compared to the boys of Ron Dennis (remember, this was, long ago, Minardi! legendary for all the not winning reasons), they also had a rookie (and in the points) and compared to McLaren at the Mercedes power source, they have the `in the grey area, though not as bad as expected` Renault engine.
In the end, the dramatic prediction of finishing is equal to points didn`t took place, but never the less a lot of cars didn`t make it. Not counting Bianchi, 14 cars have been classified today.
Well, it was a good opener of the season, and already some ratings can be seen in the `power levels` between the teams, but it is to soon to draw conclusions. Melbourne is known for being a race where a lot of cars drop out due to technical glitches, as they come for the first time to a real fight, and it is a street circuit which gives other proportions then closed circuit racing. In two weeks time, when we travel to Malaysia, we will be having a better idea of how the relations stand between the teams and drivers, so see you then!
*UPDATE: Later this afternoon Ricardio was excluded from the results due to a breach of the fuel flow regulations, meaning everyone goes up one spot in the ranking and Perez now entering the top 10 to nick the final point *
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