May 24, 2017
Recapping the twists and turns of the 2014 Formula 1 season kickoff in Melbourne.
The new Formula 1 season kicked off for 2014 last weekend in Melbourne.
Not so much a surprise as a confirmation, but Mercedes was miles ahead of the competition. After finishing 1-3 in qualifying, Nico Rosberg went on to cruise to victory by 26 seconds. Even more impressive was that Mercedes-powered cars filled five of the next six finishing positions.
The general narrative coming out of pre-season testing was that Mercedes would be the strongest team, with Red Bull languishing near the back of the pack. This was thrown out the window on Saturday when Daniel Ricciardo put his Red Bull on the front row, and backed it up on Sunday with a strong second place. Though Ricciardo was ultimately disqualified when it was found that his car exceeded the maximum fuel limit, his encouraging display sets Red Bull up as Mercedes' strongest competitors for the title.
Not only did the Dane out-qualify his much more experienced teammate with a solid fourth place, the rookie went on to finish on the podium—something that hasn't been done by a debut driver since Lewis Hamilton in 2007. Classy.
The less that can be said about Lotus' weekend, the better. They weren't strong in winter testing, but no one expected them to qualify last and second last. The race was even worse, with both drivers suffering retirements due to problems with their Energy Recovery Systems. The days when this team won back to back championships in 2005/06 must seem a very long way away.
If you needed more proof that F1's new generation is well and truly here, you got it at Saturday's rain soaked qualifying session. Tricky conditions are usually where experience counts, but it was the likes of Ricciardo, Magnussen, Bottas, and Kyvat (who at 19 years of age also went on to break the record of youngest driver to score points in F1) who were up front, with the usual suspects like Button, Raikkonen, and Vettel failing to make the top 10.
No one expected them to win, but they were expected to be the teams nipping on the heels of Mercedes. Instead they lingered around or out of the top five all weekend, which is much less than they'd hoped for.
Fears of less than 10 cars finishing were set to rest as the cars proved to be more reliable than anyone thought. Considering this was the biggest shake-up of engine regulations in decades, the fact that only five suffered terminal problems was impressive. However...
The outcry after the cars hit the track for the first time was near universal. While the racing was good, gone are the days when high pitched Formula 1 engines could be heard for miles around. Instead, the cars were left with not much more than a muted hum and an eerie turbo-whistle, which left drivers, teams, promoters, and fans in unanimous disapproval. Getting this fixed as soon as possible will be one of the season's biggest stories.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GETTY IMAGES