Win #23, Car #44

MALAYSIA REVIEW

Team celebrations at Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Team celebrations at Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

When the chequered flag brought the 16th edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix to an end an interesting statistic developed. The last time Mercedes finished a race in P1 & P2 respectively was way back in 1955! As a works team that is.

Ferrari, a fully-fledged works team too, must be frustrated. Alonso finishing in P4 has become a common sight in recent years. His battle with the Mercedes powered Force India of Hulkenberg kept the fans at Turns 1,2 & 3 in Sepang enthralled. But the fact that he was nowhere close to the Bulls or Mercedes in true pace was telling. Raikkonen had his work cut out by a fighting Lotus in the hands of Grosjean. Both drivers finishing out of the points eventually. The Scuderia believe they’ll have an advantage at the circuits that consume more fuel as their engine is more efficient but somehow that doesn’t sound like a convincing way to go challenging for a championship.

Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas raced intensely for Williams Martini Racing to P7 & P8. Whether or not Felipe should have let his teammate through to attack the McLaren of Jenson Button for P6 is to be seen. Malaysia once again, throws up the controversy of team orders and the disobeying of them!

In the other Red Bull RBR10 it’s all turning into a game of luck for Daniel Ricciardo in 2014. After all he has gotten into the seat of another Australian famed for bad luck. How the best crew for fastest, most-efficient pit stops last season could release him from his box without securing a wheel nut is anyones guess. Then his front wing played up on a kerb. And finally retirement. A DNF after a DSQ. Poor Dani.

Hamilton on fresh rubber. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Hamilton takes on fresh rubber. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

The champion’s RBR10 however, held on together nicely. At one point even challenging the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for P2. Has Sebastian Vettel finally got a car that’s there, but not really there? And will he have to dig deep to hold on to his crown? Whether he likes that or not, the fans all over are relishing a good fight. Nobody wants predictable dominance. Unless of course you’re Toto Wolff.

Watching his team take a dominant win with Lewis claiming pole, setting fastest lap and leading every lap from start to finish, followed home by Nico, one wonders how things are going to develop towards the end of the season. If Mercedes AMG Petronas can keep on winning like this with a 25 second advantage over the field and dominate all proceedings like they have done in rounds 1 & 2, which driver will they back for ultimate honours.

And most importantly how will they go about it?

It could get louder than the engines of 2014 for sure. Bring on Bahrain!

PODIUM
P1 Hamilton - Mercedes AMG 1hr 40m 25.974s
P2 Rosberg - Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel – Red Bull Renault

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Trading times

Front wing

Aero efficiency at Sepang. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Their relationship comes across as genuine comradeship, the laughter and the asides in public, the friendly jabs on social media, the brand-conscious teammates looking out for each other, for the team.

But one look at the time sheets of the Malaysian Grand Prix makes you wonder. It’s almost like a heavy-weight title bout. Both fighters not giving in. Both trading massive blows. Friday FP1 and Lewis topped the times. Nico came back in FP2 confirming Mercedes’ current form.

The bout continued into Saturday with the German signalling his intentions. To knock out. FP3 was his. Then in a delayed-due-to-rain Q1, he shows what he’s got. But in Q2 Hamilton shows he means business by going fastest. Then to add even more drama in Q3, nature plays its part. Heavier rain. But by then Lewis had beaten Nico to it.

Rosberg now found himself battling for P2 with the defending world champion. The Red Bull driver using rain as a leveller managed to shock the top steps of the podium.

What must be running through each of the top three qualifier’s minds is disguised by the brand commitments and etiquette of present day Formula 1 in the TV interviews.

All eyes on the start. There can only be one winner at Sepang. Come rain or sunshine.

—

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 59.431s
P2 Vettel – RBR Renault 1m 59.486s
P3 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 2m 00.050s

 

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The show must go on

The news came in…

Relatives of those ill-fated passengers in the mysterious Malaysian Airlines tragedy were asked to move out of KLIA hotels. To make way for the incoming Grand Prix circus complete with its performing teams and fanatics. They’ve booked way ahead apparently and thus have brushed aside what maybe a slight catastrophe for a few.

Our sport has no space for sympathy it seems.

Yet every pixel-sized space, across all imaginable media around the world has been scrupulously utilised to commemorate the 20th death anniversary of a Brazilian Formula 1 legend.

The irony lies in the fact that Ayrton Senna was the kind of soul who would’ve instinctively traded his hotel room for a family that has tragically lost it’s loved ones.

#sennawouldvebraked

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Sound of silence

AUSTRALIA REVIEW

“What do you mean cancel the order?”
“There’s no need for them anymore!”

Surely this must’ve been the telephone conversation at an ear-plug manufacturing factory somewhere in the world before the red lights went out at Melbourne. The Turbo cars of the new era sent out a new message to fans all over.

And it was loud and clear.

No more brightly coloured pieces of foam stuffed into your ears then. You can actually have a relaxed conversation with a fellow race goer on the main straight at any circuit now.

That’s not a bad thing. But if it’s about dissing the new oddly-shaped noses of the cars then the old wailing V8s would’ve helped censor that.

The Turbo Hybrid ERS cars are so quiet on TV that if it weren’t for a botched up late-braking attempt from Kamui Kobayashi at Turn 1 providing visual relief, the start of the Grand Prix would’ve been almost dead silent!

Sadly, Felipe Massa’s Australian outing was as dead as the muted sound of his FW36 thanks to the crashing Caterham. Both these guys need strong results this season.

There were more DNFs waiting to happen as pole sitter Lewis Hamilton was called in to retire on Lap 3 with a misfiring cylinder. And soon defending champion Sebastian Vettel too joined him at the paddock.

Nico Rosberg demonstrated that his superb long runs in pre-season testing were no fluke. After his teammate’s woes ensured he had no real threat, his became a victorious walk in Albert Park. Although he was followed home by local boy Dani Ricciardo in the RBR10, the podium places fell to a team that were denied a podium the whole of last season! McLaren.

Kevin Magnussen equalled the best performance by a rookie in his debut Grand Prix leading home his World Champion teammate Jenson Button. Finishing 2nd and 3rd for McLaren after Ricciardo was DSQ on a technicality.

Valtterri Bottas entertained the fans with some close racing with the wall too! After replacing a damaged wheel rim he fought back to finish a fine P6 behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard and Kimi had a lack lustre afternoon in Melbourne.

19 year old Russian debutant Daniil Kvyat put in a spirited performance to claim P10 in his maiden Grand Prix for STR while Nico Hulkenberg showed off his superior race craft yet again. His amazing drives have gone largely unnoticed by the big teams so far. It won’t be long before he is the reason for the German anthem in the FIA’s playlist.

But for now he’ll have to allow Rosberg and Mercedes that honour. They went into this season as the team to beat. And they’ve started off on a flyer. It seems the Silver Arrows have mastered the futuristic, high-tech, energy-efficient and quiet battle of 2014.

It’s about time the others make some noise.

Nico Rosberg

Turbo spray at Melbourne. Image Copyright © 2014 Mercedes AMG

PODIUM
P1 Rosberg - Mercedes AMG 1hr 32m 58.710s
P2 Ricciardo [DSQ] – Red Bull Renault
P3 Magnussen – McLaren Mercedes

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Still I rise

LH's lid

Hamilton’s 2014 F1 helmet. Image Copyright © 2014 Mercedes AMG

Timing is everything.

Switch on your flatscreen LED and theres a Bond-like commercial that features a rejuvenated star in a spot called Liquid & Metal. For the Malaysian oil company, Petronas.

Flip open a glossy and you’re assaulted by stunning portraits of F1’s first ever black driver, staring right back at you.

Touch social media on a smart device anywhere and you’ll notice after a few retweets and post-shares from the man himself that he could indeed be a rapper from LA!

Tattooed. Young. Bold. Bling.

These are words you don’t normally associate with Grand Prix racing. But maybe it’s time. Because at Melbourne, Albert Park. Pole belongs to Lewis Carl Hamilton. And the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 brand cannot be happier.

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 44.231s
P2 Ricciardo – RBR Renault 1m 44.548s
P3 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 44.595s

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F1 2014: Time for change

W05

Lewis locks up at Bahrain. Image Copyright © 2014 Mercedes AMG

SEASON PREVIEW

Okay. So the defending world champion has admitted his RB10 isn’t really in great shape for Melbourne. Not worth bowing down to…yet. It hasn’t put in the number of laps it should have by now. Reliability of the Renault engine plant then? Not so. The advanced aero required to cool the all-new Energy Recovery systems isn’t working as it should either. No Red Bull domination so far? The season sounds exciting already and it hasn’t even begun!

Elsewhere, across social media and newsrooms the pace of the current-spec Turbo Hybrid ERS F1 cars has drawn hasty comparisons with GP2 and the lesser formulae. Interestingly, everyone agrees that it’s only pre-season testing and the time sheets don’t tell an accurate story.

Mercedes power however, appears stronger than Renault or Ferrari right now. To see Williams top the time sheets frequently at Bahrain is a strong indication that their new German engine supplier may just have the advantage. McLaren have been clocking up the miles and so have Force India. All on Mercedes engines. Lewis Hamilton assures us though that it’s all a journey into the unknown come the ides of March at Albert Park.

Christian Horner famously said last year that he wouldn’t be surprised if half the grid didn’t finish at Melbourne! So is reliability the new ‘X factor’?

To fall back on the old racing adage, to finish first you have to first finish, Formula One seems to have moved from purpose-built unreliable tyres to complicated energy recovery systems with unreliable engines.

Through all these new rules and regulations a few fresh talking points have emerged. The Mercedes AMG Petronas W05, will it finally pay back? Kevin Magnussen in the other McLaren alongside Jenson Button, is he special? The new throaty Turbo sound, is it right for F1?

The old ones from winter remain too. Will Kimi get the upper hand over Fernando at Ferrari? Should Dani assume the #2 driver’s role at RBR? Can Massa revive Williams and vice versa? Are these the ugliest cars we’ve ever seen? Where now for Team Lotus? And many more…

But deep down, the seasoned Grand Prix critic in all of us is smiling nervously. There’s uncertainty in the air. It’s all a gamble. Like a wet weather race. The green formula, the new look, the new rules. It’s all looming large like a big cloud of doubt. And yet, there appears a ‘silver’ lining. With a champion waiting to be crowned hidden behind it.

The 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship is here.

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