Heartbreak for home hero Ricciardo as Rosberg and Mercedes dominate

2014 Australian Grand Prix review

Every year the mantra of Melbourne is that the first race of the year tends not to give an accurate impression of the season to come.

Last year Adrian Sutil led a chunk of the race and Kimi Raikkonen won it – two things which never happened again.

Albert Park is something of an outlier as F1 circuits go. It’s a temporary facility which isn’t shaped in the derivative mould of more recent additions to the calendar. It tends to produce unusual results.

That counts double when qualifying is disrupted by rain, as happened on Saturday. And again when many teams arrive at the first race of the year with so much potential still untapped in their new designs.

But the emphatic, assured manner of Nico Rosberg’s cruise to success affirmed every suspicion around Mercedes pre-season test form. They are in very strong shape indeed, and in the opening phase of the season the contest for victory is likely to be exclusively between their two drivers.

Engine failures sideline champions

Start, Albert Park, 2014On this occasion it was decided before the race even started, though it took a few laps to become apparent. Having taken pole position Lewis Hamilton found his engine had turned into a V5 instead of a V6.

Rosberg blasted past from third to take the lead as the race started, and Daniel Ricciardo lunged down the inside to reclaim second. Further around the opening lap Kevin Magnussen – following in Hamilton’s footsteps as the first rookie to make his race debut for McLaren in seven years – also dispossessed him.

Mercedees quickly took the decision to save Hamilton’s power unit – one of just five he may use this year – and pulled him in the pits to retire.

Minutes later Sebastian Vettel took the same course of action due to problems with his Renault V6 turbo. “In the beginning I thought I just had no power from the battery,” he said afterwards, “but it turned out that the engine failed in some way”.

He was much less sanguine at the time, angrily telling his team about the loss of power from his engine and MGU-K: “Do something! I’ve got no power, less ICE than normal And no K. That’s ridiculous guys.”

Kobayashi eliminates Massa

At this point it looked like the fears over mass retirements during the season-opening race were being realised. Three drivers had started from the pits due to various problems, including Jules Bianchi, who was unable to get away from the grid at the original start, forcing a second start.

Two drivers had got no further than the first corner. Kamui Kobayashi suffered what later turned out to be a failure in his brake-by-wire system on the run to turn one.

He ricocheted off Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, somehow not breaking its left-rear suspension, then ploughed into Felipe Massa, taking the Williams driver out of the race with him.

Both drivers were unharmed. But worryingly Massa’s car was lifted off the ground by Kobayashi’s in the impact, indicating the lower noses mandated by the FIA this year on safety grounds may put the new cars at grater risk of ‘submarining’ – something Adrian Newey warned about earlier this year.

Bottas hits the wall

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Albert Park, 2014Rosberg extended his lead steadily over Ricciardo, holding a five second advantage after eight laps. Nico Hulkenberg had taken up fourth behind Magnussen. Fernando Alonso closed within a second of the Force India but even with the aid of DRS he couldn’t pass the Mercedes-engined car.

The sole remaining Williams of Valtteri Bottas was also having its Mercedes power plant wielded to good effect. He picked off the Toro Rosso drivers in the opening laps, then put a superb move on Kimi Raikkonen at turn three.

Alonso was his next target, but on lap ten Bottas swiped the wall coming out of turn ten. Vettel did much the same in qualifying but dealt the wall a glancing blow square-on. For Bottas the rear stepped out – easily done with the torquey new V6 turbos – and he wrecked his right-rear wheel.

Bottas had fortune on his side, however. Not only was the damage slight enough that it could be repaired with a trip to the pits for a new wheel, but the chunk of debris he left behind was large enough that the Safety Car had to be deployed, cancelling out much of the time he lost.

As the Safety Car boards appeared Jenson Button was heading towards the final corner. He reacted immediately, diving for the pits before anyone else could get in. That instinctive response bought him three places.

Most of the other drivers pitted on the following lap. The unfortunate Raikkonen had to wait behind new team mate Alonso and the delay dropped him behind Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso.

Button makes places in the pits

Jenson Button, McLaren, Albert Park, 2014When the race resumed Rosberg pulled away more quickly from the chasing pack more quickly than he had at the start. Even so he set his fastest lap on the 19th tour and was clearly maintaining a steady pace thereafter, staying off the kerbs and not stressing the car too much.

Button made his second pit stop early as well and this one was also beautifully timed and well executed – apart from a mechanic knocking the tip off the MP4-29’s nose. The McLaren driver had been running behind Alonso, who still trailed Hulkenberg, but after all three had stopped their running order had been reversed.

The slow running behind the Safety Car and the shortening of the race distance by one lap served to ease concerns about fuel consumption under the tight new rules. In the closing stages the drivers were clearly exploring the limits of their cars more fully and several battles for position developed.

Most drivers had a fresh set of medium tyres for their last stint but Ricciardo had to make do with a used set. Magnussen now had Button behind him and the pair pressed on after the Red Bull, but never got close enough to mount an attack.

Bottas, however, was regaining lost ground. He passed Raikkonen again – both Ferrari drivers had electrical problems but his were more acute. Bottas then passed Vergne when the Toro Rosso driver got out of shape in the final corner, one of several points on the track which the combination of lower downforce and increased torque have made much more challenging for the drivers.

Hulkenberg was the final scalp for Bottas, meaning he finished the race behind Alonso, the position he had occupied before his brush with the wall. A case of what might have been.

Rookie Daniil Kvyat began to close on team mate Vergne at the end, so much so that the elder Toro Rosso was reminded not to hold him up. The order remained unchanged at the finish, and Kvyat made history as the youngest driver ever to score a point in Formula One.

Sergio Perez finished out of the points in 11th – though that would change – followed by the lapped Saubers and twice-lapped Marussia of Max Chilton. Bianchi was still running at the end, albeit eight laps down and not classified following his earlier problems.

Ricciardo stripped of second

Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Rosberg, Kevin Magnussen, Melbourne, 2014Three jubilant drivers stood on the podium after the race.

Rosberg basked in the glory of victory and the realisation of two-and-a-half years’ work on the new engine by his team in Brackley and Brixowrth – masterminded, it must be remembered, by the now-absent Ross Brawn.

Ricciardo was greeted by rapturous applause as he became the first Australian to stand on the podium at his home race. And Magnussen had brilliantly and unobtrusively taken a podium finish in his first ever start.

But one of them was about to be cruelly disappointed.

It took well over five hours for the stewards to decide to disqualify Ricciardo from the results. His car had exceeded the maximum fuel use rate of 100kg per hour on multiple occasions, something his team had been repeatedly warned about. Though it was no consolation to Ricciardo, the stewards’ lengthy report conceded “this parameter is outside of the control of the driver”.

The race had given an intriguing glimpse of the competitive order in 2014 and the nature of racing under F1’s new rules. But it ended under a cloud and with a disappointingly familiar storyline: one of a race decided long after the chequered flag had fallen and the crowd departed.

An already complicated sport has become even more nuanced and more tightly policed in 2014. The FIA still were still rewriting the rulebook mere days before practice began in Melbourne.

As the stewards pored over the myriad new regulations governing fuel flow rates and their measurement in order to decide who finished second the first lesson of the year became clear: Making Formula One ever more complex has its consequences.

2014 Australian Grand Prix

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, McLaren/LAT, Williams/LAT

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146 comments on Heartbreak for home hero Ricciardo as Rosberg and Mercedes dominate

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  1. It didn’t look like Nico was even running at 80% today. He had the race completely in control without even trying. Very ominous for the rest of the season. From what we saw today I’d say Mercedes were head and shoulders – as well as knee’s and toes – above the rest and in fact it’s Williams – at least in the dry and on race pace – who are closest. Behind them, McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Force India all seem fairly close.

    • favomodo (@favomodo) said on 16th March 2014, 21:45

      Agreed, Mercedes is looking very strong this year. Hopefully Williams (way to go Bottas!) and McLaren can bring in some weight.

      The review says “Both Ferrari drivers had electrical problems”, something I didn’t hear until now. So maybe the Ferrari’s can do a better race than this, which was really disappointing.

    • kikk (@kikk) said on 16th March 2014, 22:20

      Yep, Nico did his fastest lap in lap 19 and from there he kept a steady pace to the end without pushing the limits of that Silver Arrow. :)

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 17th March 2014, 10:14

      Mercedes look more dominant than Red Bull ever did at the moment. I wonder if everyone still finds that boring or whether it’s simply Red Bull and Vettel who aren’t allowed to dominate?

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th March 2014, 11:06

        @petebaldwin I think for now NR has dominated one race and that is a far cry from 4 year’s worth. Not that SV dominated every race or season like NR just did in Australia, but for sure many times SV was able to crank it down and coast home for a race win, including sealing up the WDC well before the season’s end.

        Let’s see how things go since it is such early days in a far different era. I’m sure by mid-season if not sooner there will be more similarity to the cars’ performance, and let’s not forget we could see a much better rivalry from NR/LH than SV/MW provided.

        But sure…give NR a 4-year WDC run and many F1 fans will be wishing for a change.

      • Steven (@steevkay) said on 17th March 2014, 14:17

        Well, it’ll be boring if Mercedes wins continuously with such large gaps.

        My only problem with RBR/Vettel winning was that they were so far ahead of the field that at most races, you knew no one else had a chance. If Vettel had won 4 years in a row while Alonso, Hamilton, and whoever else fought him tooth and nail for it, it would’ve been an amazing 4 years (which is why 2010 and 2012 were great seasons).

        What I’m hoping to see is RBR with a 2nd best car, and Vettel still getting a couple of wins. It’s sad, but there are still those who believe Vettel didn’t win those championships, but Newey. I want Vettel to get the respect that so many seem to show Alonso (who does tend to get a lot out of lesser cars).

      • DaveD (@daved) said on 17th March 2014, 14:20

        @petebaldwin I’m a huge Silver Arrow fan and I would not like to see it finish this way every race. I think it’s bad for the sport and if Lewis and Nico truly win every race by a lap, what is the point? OK, I’d like it more than SV dominating…but it would still be boring :)

        But as @robbie pointed out, I dont think one race is enough to determine the season yet. And we already saw Newey put together a car that went from not being able to run 20 consecutive laps to finishing 2nd two weeks later. I don’t trust all the hulabaloo about the fuel flow meter, but give Adrian time and SV a good car and I’ll be irritated as hell at him again soon enough LOL

  2. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 16th March 2014, 21:24

    It’s unfortunate that it ended this way for Ricciardo, but I don’t think there was any other fair option that the stewards could have taken. There were some great performances by other drivers as well – Magnussen and Bottas in particular were absolutely superb, I’d be amazed if we don’t see them battling for world championships in the coming years.

  3. Sir OBE said on 16th March 2014, 21:24

    An already complicated sport has become even more nuanced and more tightly policed in 2014. The FIA still were still rewriting the rulebook mere days before practice began in Melbourne.

    No matter how simple the rules can be, if teams are trying to circumvent them in every possible way, there will always be post-race disqualifications. Red Bull has been in exactly the same situation many times in previous seasons, so it has nothing to do with rules. It’s with Red Bull trying to break their own equipment in order to try to compensate for it in a way which is giving them performance advantage.

  4. mateuss (@mateuss) said on 16th March 2014, 21:30

    I don’t see how can you blame the after race situation on FIA or the necessary, simple, one dimensional, straightforward rule. There is a very detailed, well thought out procedure in place, taking into account all sorts of possibilities, the team chose to ignore it, even after being warned. I still can’t understand what were RBR thinking?
    (It’s not often I find myself defending the integrity of FIA and the stewards or the necessity of a rule)

    Overall I loved the race and the weekend as a whole, seeing the drivers fighting with the cars, seeing wheel to wheel action, great debiew by Kevin. The competition was closer than I feared, though Mercedes does look like it is going to be difficult to catch. Reliability also seems quite well, considering all the factors and the pre-season, though it must be said that only two Renault powered cars are classified, but at least the engine seems competitive, Daniel was able to run at the front (even with the fuel factor, RBR must be there or there abouts) and TorroRosso seemed to be on pace with the Ferrari.

    • skipgamer (@skipgamer) said on 16th March 2014, 22:50

      The “procedure in place” told red bull to use 96 kg/hr of fuel (supposedly, as other teams were) just because they had a faulty sensor. Yet the rule stipulates they can use 100 kg/hr of fuel. It’s pretty clear what they are thinking. If the maximum fuel flow rate of the car conforms to the regulations, why should they lower it just because of a faulty sensor, backup procedure or not?

      To bring a parallel example to aerodynamics, it would be like saying; our tape measures broken at 1649mm therefore to be sure you’re not breaking the regulations you’re wing can’t exceed 1646mm insteal of 1560mm.

      It’s hardly a straightforward, well-thought out, situation.

    • Tyler (@tdog) said on 16th March 2014, 23:30

      I don’t see how can you blame the after race situation on FIA

      Maybe because the FIA mandated fuel sensor doesn’t work?

      • hezla (@hezla) said on 17th March 2014, 9:41

        Let’s think about it.
        Let us say FC Barcelona thinks the line judge have mad wrong offside decisions in the training football match.
        So FC Barcelona decides to take their own line judge to the liga match. The referee tell FC Barcelona to follow the appointed line judge, but FC Barcelona ignores and only follow their own line judge.

        That would be absurd, but it is what Red Bull did in Formula 1 at the Australian GP.

        They ignored FIA’s requests to lower the fuel rate, because they trusted their own equipment more than the sensors of FIA. Wrong or not, they arrogant ignored the referee.

        It had to bee a disqualification.

        • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 17th March 2014, 11:58

          Black flag would have also been appropriate (if there was enough time to issue it).

          • @mateuss

            Black flag would have also been appropriate (if there was enough time to issue it).

            I was wondering about this when I read the justification of Ricciardo’s disqualification. If the FIA’s technical delegate knew about the fuel-flow issue during the race, and gave Red Bull the opportunity to correct it but they refused, then why wasn’t Ricciardo shown a black (or at least black and orange) flag? Surely that would be preferable to disqualifying him after the race thus changing the results hours later?
            You refer to this fuel-flow regulation as a

            necessary, simple, one dimensional, straightforward rule.

            If the rule is that straightforward, I would’ve thought the stewards could make a decision during the race — and certainly sooner than 5 hours later.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 17th March 2014, 1:44

      @mateuss, I think what RBR was thinking was “our fuel flow is legal and we can prove it after the race, the FIA know that the sensor is inaccurate so it should not be a big deal”.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 17th March 2014, 7:04

      @mateuss the problem is that the procedure is not well thought thru. IF RBRs claims are true then the sensor works with an accuracy in the percentiles. Would be the same as if tolerances in the bodywork would be measured with +/- 1 cm or the min weight with +/- 6.9 kg.
      The FIA reserves the right to say which measurement is accurate without having a clear reference point. Which makes the advice to run with an offset (like 96kg/h) almost a joke – considering how much money is spent by teams to improve just by 1 tenths of a second.

      However the penalty is still ok, because they didn’t protest and just ignoring rules can’t be the way to go. Though I think the reason for RBRs actions are some political stuff going on in the background. First LDM sheds light on the policing of this rule with his comment – now RB drags the matter to court – so there is more going on that we know right now, but we’ll see.

      • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 17th March 2014, 12:13

        @tmf42 To run at 96 kg/h seems reasonable, 4-5% margin of error seems reasonable (especially if it is at 99+% probability, but even at 95% (which is the golden standard in science)) for such a complex non-direct measurement device. If the error was more than 10%, than that could be considered too much (that would not excuse such actions either though). And anyway it is the same for everybody and you run the car within the margins of error (like everybody) and comply with the FIA procedures.

        And anyway, as I understand the sensors are bought and maintained by the teams (but even if that was not the case), they should go cry a river to the manufacturer to improve it and help improve it themselves, not act like a pigeon playing chess – knocking all the pieces off the board, defecating all over it, then fly off and declare moral victory…

        • TMF (@tmf42) said on 17th March 2014, 13:30

          @mateuss 5% is an awful lot not just for F1 but in general – precision fuel flow sensors work in the range of .1% (for comparison).

          RBR handled it incorrectly and deserved the penalty – there is no doubt about it in my mind.
          My criticism is directed towards the rule itself resp. how it’s policed. The FIA selected the supplier of the sensor and the teams have to homologate it and only take over the maintenance. Variances are 10% (+/- 5%), which is way too high and unacceptable for F1 standards. LDM was right all along – the FIA should make it a priority that the fuel flow rule is not only enforced but also fairly for everybody and if RBRs claims are true – then that’s just not the case right now. (doesn’t mean that the penalty should be taken back)

        • TMF (@tmf42) said on 17th March 2014, 13:30

          @mateuss 5% is an awful lot not just for F1 but in general – precision fuel flow sensors work in the range of .1% (for comparison).

          RBR handled it incorrectly and deserved the penalty – there is no doubt about it in my mind.
          My criticism is directed towards the rule itself resp. how it’s policed. The FIA selected the supplier of the sensor and the teams have to homologate it and only take over the maintenance. Variances are 10% (+/- 5%), which is way too high and unacceptable for F1 standards. LDM was right all along – the FIA should make it a priority that the fuel flow rule is not only enforced but also fairly for everybody and if RBRs claims are true – then that’s just not the case right now. (doesn’t mean that the penalty should be taken back)

        • Jimbo (@jimbo) said on 17th March 2014, 14:05

          @mateuss – I think you are getting confused with what the scientific golden standard is which is five nines, i.e. 99.999%, not 95%.

          • Jimbo (@jimbo) said on 17th March 2014, 14:18

            Actually that’s not quite right either. Gold standard is as close to 100% as you can get but the standards can be different depending on what you measure. I was getting mixed up between up-time and 5 sigma standard deviation.

          • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 17th March 2014, 15:29

            I don’t quite understand what you mean. I talk about the probability at which the margin of error is estimated.
            In all the scientific literature I’ve read it is always 95%, its kind of a quasi-standard, or as some call it, “the golden standard”, though its not actually any kind of standard, hence the “quasi”.

  5. peteleeuk (@peteleeuk) said on 16th March 2014, 21:31

    I’m not technological enough to know how , but they need to devise a system where the cars are able to be signed off and deemed legal before a race, not illegal after it. This changing of the result after the event is a terrible way to go about things and a damaging thing for the sport in general.

    Then it is only the actions of the driver that can be called into question, immediately and for all to see.

    • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 16th March 2014, 21:36

      Well, they have the system in place, RedBull simply ignored the warnings during the race and the set procedure for such situations.

      • Joe Papp said on 17th March 2014, 6:33

        Yeah, exactly.

        People act like applying an offset to correct a universal calibration error – and thusly getting the corrected fuel-flow rate – means that teams should’ve been able to exceed the limits.

        The hubris of Red Bull is impressive. I’m glad the stewards knocked them back and defended the integrity of the sporting spectacle.

    • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 17th March 2014, 12:02

      @peteleeuk How could that possibly work. What you suggests means that teams could make their cars illegal after they are signed off and before (or during) a race without penalty. There is no other way than to have the cars inspected after they have crossed the finish line.

      In this case the car would have passed pre-race scrutineering anyway since the rules don’t say that a car must not be capable of running a fuel flow rate of 100kg/h only that they must not exceed that rate. The only other option available to the stewards would therefore have been to black flag Ricciardo when they spotted the illegal fuel-flow rate, thereby removing him and his illegal car from the event. I’m not sure that would have been a better solution for either the driver, team or fans so I think the decision to exclude him after the event was the correct option.

      • @jerseyf1

        I’m not sure that would have been a better solution for either the driver, team or fans so I think the decision to exclude him after the event was the correct option.

        I am interested to know why you think this. (I’m not saying you’re wrong! Just that your opinion is the opposite of mine and I’d be interested to hear your thinking on the subject.)

        To my mind, while a mid-race disqualification for Ricciardo would have been terrible, it’s preferable to what has happened. The end result in terms of both drivers’ and constructors’ championships is the same, but for Ricciardo himself, and the fans, the gut-wrenching feeling of having had his first-ever podium finish (and the first home-race podium finish for any Australian driver) taken away from him after the event is just horrible. Yes, he got to have that moment of standing on the rostrum, and the home crowd got to enjoy cheering him as their new F1 hero, but I doubt there are many of them for whom the memory has not been utterly soured by what happened later. At least a black flag wouldn’t have given false joy before the crushing disappointment.

        Moreover, as others have already pointed out, the changing of results after the race makes a mockery of the sport. The FIA has made it clear that it is trying to appeal to fair-weather or ‘casual’ fans this year by imposing that insane double-points-for-the-final-race rule, and yet this sort of complicated post-race result change is exactly the kind of thing that will put off casual fans as it negates what actually happened in the race.

        • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 17th March 2014, 22:26

          @ladym I get your point but for me if the black flag had been shown there would only ever have been a what-if over Ricciardo’s race. The technical infringement was entirely unseen by fans at the track and they would have been furious (they probably still are but lots of furious individuals isn’t as big a problem as a furious crowd!) As it is he did get to stand on the podium, the fans got their moment of enjoyment and he knows that he was (and is) up to the job over a race distance even if Red Bull’s engineers/decision makers aren’t. I also think that in the eyes of many of his fans this will still count as a podium result.I don’t think the sour taste is any worse for happening after the race – it’s the same but at least it was a low following a high. It also gives Red Bull the chance to appeal.

          In terms of fans watching (not just Ricciardo’s) there was that little bit of excitement as Magnusen got close to Ricciardo and the uncertainty about the final outcome. Without Ricciardo in the mix it would not only have been a procession from the Mercedes up front but also for the McLarens behind too.

  6. It was nice to drivers struggling with the cars grip, also good to see overtakes in places other than DRS zones. On the whole, it was an entertaining and eventful opening race. The unknown is what makes for more excitement.
    My heart goes out to Danny Ricciardo, he deserved more from his team, they thought they could tell the FIA the rules, instead of the other (correct) way round.
    I’m already excited in anticipation on the next race, Malaysia, that will test if RedBull have really got on top of cooling, plus the chance of more rain is never far away.
    Thumbs up so far for the new generation of F1 from me.

    • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 16th March 2014, 21:38

      +1, Love the new Formula.

    • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 17th March 2014, 9:53

      I loved it too.

      The cars have more torques than grip, it seems, in all gears and at all point in the rev range. The drivers can no longer just floor it, they have to use their right foot and determine how much grip they have, even in a straight line.

      As for the sound of the engines, although many people told me they thought they sounded like lawn mowers, I actually like it. I think the FOM TV crews could do with making some adjustments to the sound levels, but I loved hearing other notes in there, hearing the turbo and the MGUs off throttle. I also had a HUGE grin on my face every time I heard someone setting off from a pit stop: hearing the wheels squeal was brilliant.

      The racing seemed better too.

      All in all, I am feeling very positive about this season. Which is a bit of a shame, as I still plan to boycott the last race, no matter what the championships are looking like at the time. Abu Double is casting a cloud over what is looking to be one of the best seasons in a very long time!

  7. Jonathan189 (@jonathan189) said on 16th March 2014, 21:34

    This is a very nicely written and insightful review — one of several posts lately that have just been really high quality. You’re getting pretty good at the whole journalism thing, Keith. I hope you don’t get poached by The Times or some other paywall-enforcing publication!

  8. reiter (@reiter) said on 16th March 2014, 21:35

    Even though the Aussie grand prix’s results usually don’t reflect on the rest of the year, consider the following:

    In 1996, Damon Hill qualified right behind Jacques Villeneuve; and went on to win the race by a dominating margin. He won the 1996 WDC.

    In 1998, Mika Häkkinen got pole position and won the race, dominating it along David Coulthard. Häkkinen went on to win the 1998 WDC.

    In 2000, even though he didn’t get pole position, and pretty much everyone else retired, Michael Schumacher won the race, and again, went on to win the WDC.

    2001 – Schumacher led the race from pole, and won. WDC.

    2002 – Schumacher won race with a 20 second margin. WDC.

    2004 – Ferrari dominated the whole weekend. Schumacher won the WDC.

    2007 – Kimi Räikkönen won from pole. WDC.

    2008 – Lewis Hamilton won from pole. WDC.

    2009 – Jenson Button won from pole. WDC.

    2011 – Sebastian Vettel won from pole. WDC.

    2014 – Nico Rosberg didn’t get pole, but he dominated the rest of the race.

    Now, my point here is that given Albert Park’s toughness and uncertainty as a circuit results-wise, when a team or driver dominates it in such a fashion (and usually it being the first race of the season), it means that they have the strongest overall package car and driver-wise, and thus are in a stronger position to win the championship. If they have such a good combination to dominate the race that is thought to have the most uncertainty out of them all, it would make sense for the results to be similar in other less-difficult races. Mercedes clearly had the upper hand this weekend as well, and by a very large margin. We could be seeing this year’s result follow the same pattern.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 17th March 2014, 7:15

      It’s too soon. Nico had an easy job because his main competitor (HAM) retired after three laps.

      Plus, the double points rule can mess everything in November…

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th March 2014, 11:30

        I think there is something to the concept of having a car that is good straight out of the box, and therefore starting off the season with an edge, but it certainly is no guarantee.

        Hopefully NR/LH have a rivalry that excites the fans for the season. In 96, the only reason DH beat JV was because in the last few laps JV’s car had coated DH’s with oil from a leak so JV had to cede the position to DH and just bring it home. It came down to JV/DH in the last race that year but DH had a points advantage and then JV had a tire issue that handed DH the WDC.

        SV has 4 WDC’s yet only 1 came from getting pole and winning the first race. JB barely hung on for his WDC having started with the double diffuser advantage that it would take everyone else half a season to catch up to, and JB got the bulk of his WDC points in the first half.

        They run all the races for a reason, but I agree, there’s no better way to start than to be good out of the box….heck of a lot better than the alternative.

  9. joc_the_man said on 16th March 2014, 21:39

    Summing up the first weekend, I have a very clear view…
    FIA has some serious mending to do or people (= fans = the revenue generator of F1) will lose interest pretty soon…
    Eco-drive crap, fuel-flow stupidity, lack of speed, no more noise, and silly looks….to mention some.
    Worst of all, the drivers cannot race any longer – they now have to nurse fuel and check the fuel-rates obviously & nurse tyres instead, it has become a ”green and environmental tv-show” instead of being the pinnacle of motorsport.
    The problem is that FIA sit in their ivory towers and seems not to care. Their solution will probably be even more complicated rules that will hamper the drivers even more…
    Mr Todt – you are responsible for this mess.
    Sad times.

    • Did you see the same race as the rest of us? What fuel saving? There was over takes in non-DRS zones!

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 16th March 2014, 21:54

      Come on Joc, when did we see drivers nursing fuel and tyres this race?
      And you have a point regarding the sound as provided by FOM but trackside sources and amateur video as in yesterdays roundup suggest a really good sound is being made by these cars.

      • grat said on 17th March 2014, 0:40

        Race sounded fantastic on my surround sound system.

        Problem is, most internet sources like Youtube, etc., compress the bejesus out of the sound, and drive it down to 1.5 channels.

        As for the rest, some of it’s teething problems– it’s unfortunate that the first race of the new formula was at one of the most fuel hungry tracks. Some of it just takes a bit of time for the teams to get used to. In 2009, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how ugly and undriveable the cars were, but the teams will sort that out pretty quick, just like they did then.

    • Ady (@ady) said on 16th March 2014, 22:20

      The point of a fuel flow regulator is to prevent excessive fuel saving by setting a maximum flow rate. This prevents high fuel mixtures by leading drivers at the beginning of the race that results in them pulling away quickly escaping risk of being overtaken, only to then need to aggressively conserve fuel at the end of the race.

      • GB (@bgp001ruled) said on 17th March 2014, 3:45

        shouldnt that be the drivers problem? it shouldnt be the FIAs problem…
        to me that flow rule does not make any sense!

        • Ady (@ady) said on 17th March 2014, 5:03

          @bgp001ruled perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. The ‘problem’ is that the pole sitter can use the begging of the GP, a rich fuel mix and clear air to pull away from the pack (something that RedBull took full advantage of in previous years). By imposing a maximum fuel flow limit it gives those behind a fairer chance of keeping up and therefore more chance of an overtake. It also means we don’t see aggressive fuel saving at the end of a race.

          The 100kg an hour is a rate not total in the hour, meaning you can’t use 50kg in the first 20 mins, and then the other 50 in the remaining 40 mins. i.e. it would be more accurate to say 27.77g per second.

          • GB (@bgp001ruled) said on 17th March 2014, 5:13

            but if someone pulls away using a high flow rate: 1) the time will come when he must save fuel and the other catch him; 2) if there is a safety car, using the high flow rate was a waste!!!! so again @ady, it shouldnt be regulated! let the driver/team administrate their fuel the way they want…

          • Ady (@ady) said on 17th March 2014, 5:39

            ok, so perhaps I’m not doing a good enough job of explaining it. There are a lot of advantages of getting poll, by using techniques such as the one I described above teams can increase their odds. By imposing rules that restrict these techniques you end up with closer racing and less of a procession.

            I would prefer more rules such as this that affect everyone equally rather than unequal rules such as DRS.

      • gazzaguru said on 17th March 2014, 6:38

        Main reason the fuel flow rate rule is their is too try and limit the power output of the v6 engine to around 600hp. There’s no current limit as to how much turbo boost can be applied to the engine. The FIA want to try and avoid a repeat of the 1980’s when the turbo engines generated around 1500 brake horsepower.

    • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 17th March 2014, 12:25

      Australia will be the first to lose interest if things continue like this. And I sincerely hope they do. And I say that as a proud Australian. Yes I am unhappy about Riccardo, but its not only that. I feel that F1 no longer deserves the hospitality that Australia and many other countries offers. Year after year, Australia has shown to be a top supporter and promoter of F1. Australia always gives the best to F1 and I believe the best introduction to F1. And what does it get in return? An expensive show (which no longer worth the effort in my opinion) and too much politics, corruption and rule changes that are unpredictable and contradictory to the essence of MOTOR-racing.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 19th March 2014, 6:33

        To be honest, I really do not understand what you are talking about there. These are the first rule changes in years that were decided on pretty long up front, and were expected @maksutov.

        The other parts really would make more sense, had you mentioned them in 2011 when DRS was introduced and Pirelli was instructed to make tyres to “spice up the show”. Bernie has been operating this way for the last 2 decades, no change in that aspect at all.

        • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 19th March 2014, 11:48

          @bascb

          I guess I am just frustrated, as I very much dislike the fuel regulation rules. I know they were decided long up front, but I simply don’t agree with them and I feel they don’t belong in motor racing.

          And also there is the way in which penalties are enforced. The whole time you could be at a race, cheering for the wrong thing and made to look like a fool because several hours after the race, you are told that the driver you cheered was (more or less) a cheat and did not deserve their position. It makes the experience, the joy, the pre/post effort of the local race organisers, TV/show/host presenters and interviewers – to look stupid. Simply put, I feel that the penalties for something like fuel flow peak rate is too harsh and overall unnecessary.

          As some have already stated, the FIA need to get their act together, clean up the rules and their decision making process relating penalties, and let motor racing be what its meant to.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 19th March 2014, 12:07

            Maybe they should have told us by lap 10 that RBR were going to face DSQ if they did not change their approach?

            Fuel flow rate defines the maximum power of the engine, so when Sauber get a double DSQ for having their rear wing off by a couple of mm, something that certainly cannot cause any advantage on track, how can you argue that using more peak power than allowed under the regulations, and doing so willfully and even despite having been repeatedly warned about it should not warrant a DSQ @maksutov.

            I do agree that its always a big letdown if post race penalties like this change the result, especially one like this one, but there is no way to do it up front, apart from the Stewards black flagging the car. Not sure that is a better solution.

            Fuel flow restrictions are part of Motorsport as much as restrictions on cylinders, limits on air inlets, turbo boost pressure, RPM limits, etc. There are different ways to do it (some just use restrictors instead of measuring), but all are good ways to put a limit on peak power allowed.
            In the (distant) past, power was more or less limited by the technical options available, but nowadays every sport uses limits to keep things from going horribly wrong.

          • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 20th March 2014, 11:27

            @bascb

            Maybe they should have told us by lap 10 that RBR were going to face DSQ if they did not change their approach?

            perhaps they could have.. or maybe they should investigate the cars before and after the race. So that if someone breaches the rules they are black flagged accordingly.

            Fuel flow rate defines the maximum power of the engine..

            you don’t have to explain me the intricacies of fuel flow rate, I used to work as a mechanic for 4 years… and I understand what you are saying. But I still disagree that fuel flow rate should be a component that is monitored and limited. You have to leave some room for mechanical and engineering competition and ingenuity relating to how engines are used. On the end of the day, if engines can produce more power with less fuel they will most likely be in advantage. And besides, the more fuel you use, the more fuel you need.

            And to confirm, I don’t actually mind if fuel quantity limit is imposed, but I do mind if peak fuel flow rate is controlled. But it is what it is, but I don’t have to like it.

            And where does it end? There are unlimited number of things you can control and monitor in the car and the engine. If FIA continue to adopt this ideology, there will be no end to these sensors and restrictions. And sooner or later all the cars will become identical and so why don’t we just get the drivers race a video game and we can all watch and cheer for that.

  10. Yet again enforcement of F1 regulations have ruined the outcome of a otherwise exciting and satisfying event. I’m not saying cheating should be permitted (deliberate or otherwise). I do think though, that when rules interfere with the enjoyment of the sport, something isn’t right.
    Daniel Ricciardo’s beaming smile was one of the best sights of the weekend. Sport needs dreams to come true every now and then. F1 should be all about the wild, the crazy, the fastest, the coolest, the most electrifying, the dreams we all have. No compromise, no namby-pamby half baked sucking up to the sandal wearing tree huggers.
    I’m not anti progress, nor am I anti green. But come on, what’s all this about hybrid F1 cars? The pinnacle of Autosport has now become humiliated and neutered. What next, Touring Car to be a one make series for Toyota Prius?
    Electric bikes on the Isle of Man have been a massive success. They’re developing into quite fast machines. There is a place for electric, hybrid and alternative energy vehicles. There is a case for promoting the use of such technologies in our daily vehicles, but not in F1. Not F1.
    Formula One, is the ultimate car race series. Or it should be. Scrap prohibitive regs. Do away with these potty post-race bombshells. Open up the series to be Open to anything and everything. Why not six wheels? Why not eight litre V16 4WD rear wheel steering? Ok I’m being silly, I know. But who wants the present situation? Every single year, races are settled through the appeals process months after the actual event. That’s not sport.
    How on earth can the sport justify ruining the outcome of a race, simply to uphold regulations that have nothing to do with ultimate performance? The rule that Ricciardo has fallen foul of, is there to make the sport less offensive to the environmental critics, that’s all.
    The F1 moguls want their backsides kicking.

    • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 17th March 2014, 10:10

      But come on, what’s all this about hybrid F1 cars? The pinnacle of Autosport has now become humiliated and neutered.

      I agree that F1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport.

      But the pinnacle is no longer “bur petrol, go fast”. It needs to be on the limit of technology, driving it forward.

      These cars are about as fast as last year’s cars (within acceptable margin), with an engine of a third less capacity, using a third less fuel, and with much less downforce. That is an AMAZING achievement, and this will improve as the season progresses. It will push them to develop better battery and motor technology, and to get more out of every drop of fuel.

      Far from holding F1 back, these regs are dragging it, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, and back to the technological pinnacle it should be.

    • Steven (@steevkay) said on 17th March 2014, 15:02

      I agree and disagree with your points; the way these engines work is really the limits of hybrid technology, with all the different types of energy harvesting, etc. I don’t really agree with irrelevant V16s and such, but it’d be nice if the formula was more ‘free’, so that people could use such engines if they wanted (which is what I think you’re getting at). I really wish the engines didn’t have to be homologated for the season and that development could occur freely as well.

      The direction F1 is taking towards ‘road relevance’ is silly when open-wheel vehicles are not relevant (it’d be nice if everyone drove around in Ariel Atoms or BAC Monos, but that’s not he case). There is already a series for this: LMP1. If you want road relevance, it’s LMP1, since even Porsche was saying a lot of the technologies in their 919 LMP1 car can be applied directly to their road cars.

      To me, F1 should essentially be rockets on wheels (although I want the aerodynamics to be severely limited, I think they ruin F1 personally) with some possible road-relevance, whereas LMP1 remains the high-tech series with directly applicable, road-relevant technologies.

      As far as the Ricciardo situation goes… I hope he keeps smiling. I couldn’t help but smile, too, when I saw him celebrate on the podium.

  11. Boomerang said on 16th March 2014, 21:42

    I’m not RB fan but I don’t get it. They’ve been accused of breaching the Rule by consistently exceeding the maximum flow rate of the Fuel. I have to commend RB Engineers for inventing the first true Perpetuum Mobile. They had only 100kg of fuel, and exceeded constantly max flow rate of 100kg per hour during a Race which lasted more than one and the half hour. I must admit, that’s amazing! Guys, you achieved a miracle! Good job, indeed!
    Sorry Ricc, I can only emphatize without beeing much helpful.

    • Oli (@dh1996) said on 16th March 2014, 21:56

      Even if you have a flow rate of only 50kg/hour for 95 % of the lap – if you use 101kg/hour on the main straight each lap, you are exceeding the maximum consistently.

      • Boomerang said on 16th March 2014, 22:56

        You’re right mate. I just wanted to say that this rule sucks. Formula 1 mimics road cars and gives back nothing to car industry. Couple of decades earlier Formula 1 was “1” indeed. It lead automotive industry in terms of technology in every aspect. This is Formula FIA for a long time now. It simply isn’t Formula 1. Especialy not in the sense reffered by its name. FIA signed the documents abiding itself to the interest of reducing CO2 emitions supporting the UN policy regarding the matter. However, they had no constraints in introducing rules contradicting the spirit of documents they’ve signed. Eg. no variable valve timing, single turbo charger. Things like that… The list of their rules is so long that kills every engineering creativity. Some of the greatest designers left because of it: Gordon Murray, John Barnard, and who knows who else… I admire these guys who find the way around their stupidity and hail the engineering creativity any time of the day!

        • Baron (@baron) said on 17th March 2014, 7:35

          You’ve listed all the things that people like Gordon Murray and John Barnard were NOT responsible for, i.e. engines. The fact that they no longer design F1 cars owes more to the shift towards pure aerodynamics. The only things F1 gave the automotive industry were paddle shift, carbon ceramic brakes and a few other items usually found on high value road cars only. Desmodromic valve systems were in the public domain before Renault put it into an F1 car for the first time, thus unleashing the high rpm potential from the previous engine formulae but have no relevance whatever to road car tech. I am not listing VVT because there were mechanical type systems before the advent of electronics.

          The new technology engines have returned F1 to an engine formula and the tech they are developing is directly linked to a car you and I could afford in a couple of years time – hence manufacturers renewed interest. And remember, if the rules mandate a future increase in power at any time, with these motors, it’s a software and external hardware upgrade to be capable of 1,000 hp without the ERS.

    • Luke Adams (@devious) said on 16th March 2014, 22:27

      I don’t think you understand the regulation.

      100Kg of total fuel for the race (though they can put more in).

      Maximum flow (into the engine) 100Kg per hour. The car is not at full throttle for the entire lap, so they do not ( and should not) hit this limit.

      • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 16th March 2014, 22:43

        The concept of ‘100kg/h’ is a gross simplification – the actual sensor will be monitoring the flow to the second and if they’re running a car constantly over the approved limit, it will flag it. The rule states that it should not go over the limit. Red Bull might have been running the car rich at several points.

        • Mike said on 17th March 2014, 7:45

          No, 100kg/h is the rate of fuel flow. It doesn’t say anything about when it’s measured.

          • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 17th March 2014, 10:19

            Actually, you will find in the TDs that it was measured at 10Hz (10 times per second), and this has been changed to 5Hz (5 times per second).

            Although people get confused about the 100kg/h terminology, this is 27.8g/s, or at their sampling rate, they cannot use more than 5.6g per sample. It was always going to measured on a very frequent basis (although this is much slower than most other sensor readings on an F1 car).

    • JohnNik (@johnnik) said on 16th March 2014, 22:29

      Consistently was probably the wrong word to use, maybe “repeatedly” would have been a better fit.

      • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 17th March 2014, 10:21

        Actually, consistently could be the right word. For example, if they exceeded the slow rate at even one point on the track, every lap for 5 laps, they consistently used too much.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 19th March 2014, 6:35

      You do not go full throttle ALL of the lap though Boomerang, just about 55% for Melbourne I think (although with the blown diffusers it was a lot more!)

  12. OOliver said on 16th March 2014, 21:43

    Not too bad a race considering the new formula, but a pity the FIA had to spoil everything once more.
    I think if the fuel flow sensor is proving to be inconsistent, each team should just be allowed 102kg of fuel before the race and then they use it at however rate they deem fit. For a fact, just only a few weeks to the start of the season, the company supplying these flow sensors were having problems with the device, and it just adds another whole level of complication and contention to an already complex regime.

    • KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 16th March 2014, 23:37

      a pity the FIA had to spoil everything once more

      Yes. That damn FIA. Introducing rules, talking about a zero tolerance policy, and then upholding it. Of course, they’ve ruined everything…

      It seems some F1 fans can’t be happy…

      • Mike said on 17th March 2014, 7:47

        Haha. Well said!

      • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 17th March 2014, 10:22

        That damn FIA. Introducing rules, talking about a zero tolerance policy, and then upholding it. Of course, they’ve ruined everything…

        LOVE IT!

      • OOliver said on 17th March 2014, 12:50

        I have no problem with the FIA enforcing a rule when they feel like it, what I can’t understand is why the FIA rushed in faulty sensors into service. As recently as only a few weeks before preseason testing, the supplier of the device was still having problems with its consistency.
        I will also like to know how Redbull were able to bypass the sensor considering the cars had gone through pre race and post qualifying scrutineering .

  13. HoHum (@hohum) said on 16th March 2014, 21:44

    This fuel use saga just might run and run, you would not normally expect racing engines from 2 of the top manufacturers to suffer piston or valve failure so early as Vettel and Lewis surely did, one traditional cause for holed pistons or burnt valves is running lean, and since these engines are running as lean as possible to begin with it is very possible that a faulty reading from a fuel flow sensor caused them to run too lean and suffer the failures that put them out of the race so early, not an option you would want to force on your 1 remaing car.

    • JohnNik (@johnnik) said on 16th March 2014, 22:31

      Have you seen reports of piston/valve failures? I was under the impression that the problems were electrical.

      • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 16th March 2014, 22:46

        Mercedes/Hamilton confirmed that his retirement was due to a piston failure – @keithcollantine even wrote it in this article…

        Having taken pole position Lewis Hamilton found his engine had turned into a V5 instead of a V6.

        Red Bull just had some wide-reading failure on Vettel’s car – the PU wasn’t working properly.

        • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 17th March 2014, 0:11

          Just because a cylinder isn’t firing, doesn’t mean the piston failed. It could just as easily be a faulty spark plug.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 17th March 2014, 1:54

            I understand that @raceprouk, but you don’t tell a driver to retire immediatley to save the engine because of a faulty sparkplug, (unless you think the spark plug has broken pieces in the combustion chamber) you bring him in to check the HT lead and/or change the plug.

          • OneBHK (@onebhk) said on 17th March 2014, 5:39

            It could just as easily be a faulty spark plug.

            @raceprouk I don’t think they have sparkplugs on these new engines

          • yathish said on 17th March 2014, 9:53

            these engines dont have spark plugs.

          • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 17th March 2014, 10:34

            yathish, @onebhk – All petrol engines have spark plugs

            @hohum – True, but it does depend on how easy it is to get to the plug

    • Erik Torsner said on 17th March 2014, 12:16

      I doubt that the Fuel flow meter is that involved when measuring the air to fuel mix. I’d bet they’re using a series of Lambda sensors on the exhaust side to determine the current mix, just as most normal engines would. If the lambas fail, they can fall back on various models based on other sensor values, inlet manifold pressure to name a likely candidate.

      Could it be that the fuel flow meter is only there to satisfy FIA? In the V8 era there were no regulations of fuel flow. Or?

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 17th March 2014, 13:10

        After getting some sleep I can see I may have overdramatised the situation, however I still think it’s ludicrous for the FIA to be telling a team to slow down on the basis of information from a sensor they know to be inaccurate. I await further information.

  14. nidzovski (@nidzovski) said on 16th March 2014, 21:52

    I’ve enjoyed reading this fantastic story. Thank you Keith for your passion and dedication to F1.

  15. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 16th March 2014, 22:07

    I saw the last 10 laps today (repeated), and what an awful thing the race is on Mute mode…

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