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

  1. The Bear! (@justgassing) said on 17th March 2014, 0:03

    The FIA are indeed guilty of miss management. If they had warned RB that the sensor limit was being exceeded and as alleged nothing was done to reduce the problem; a drive through penalty at the time would have been a sufficient penalty for all concerned.
    What i do not agree with is the after race penalties that eventually exclude finishers from positions the drivers worked hard for. If a penalty for regulation infringement is found to be the only answer then the driver should not bare the brunt of the rule breaker as in this case.
    It means more to Red bull to finish first, whoever the driver is (Marko will think differently) so a deduction of manufacturers points and say a grid penalty for the next race for the driver would at least leave a less bitter taste in the mouth of the enthusiast who pay fortunes to watch the pinnacle of motor sport.
    This leads me to draw the conclusion that there are indeed “jobsworths” flexing muscles within the sport, who are more than happy to upset the majority of fans because they can.
    A rule is a rule, but if it is blatantly being ignored during the event, then stop it there, not when the paper cups and debris are being blown around an empty circuit hours after we all switch off or go home.
    If this is such an industry as to set an example then everyone should take a professional approach to policing it, leaving personal politics behind, and always being on the lookout for an example to encourage people to watch…not turn them away.

    • evered7 (@evered7) said on 17th March 2014, 1:41

      leave a less bitter taste in the mouth of the enthusiast who pay fortunes to watch the pinnacle of motor sport.

      The fans did get a return for their money. They watched a good performance from Ricciardo. No one is going to take that away from them.

      Also the FIA did warn them during the race. If RB had turned it down as the rest of the other teams did, there wouldn’t be this discussion. So it is not the FIA flexing their muscles but RB making them do it.

      • The Bear! (@justgassing) said on 17th March 2014, 9:27

        The fans did not get a return as he was disqualified, and my point was that if they had penalised RB there and then it would all have had a different outcome without the bitter taste of “robbery” that is evident.

      • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 17th March 2014, 9:29

        The fans did get a return for their money. They watched a good performance from Ricciardo. No one is going to take that away from them.

        the FIA took it away from them.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 17th March 2014, 13:21

        @evered,Where do you get the information from that says other teams turned down their fuel flow, I saw nothing to sugest that other teams were being given the same instruction as RBR.

    • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 17th March 2014, 12:24

      If they had warned RB that the sensor limit was being exceeded and as alleged nothing was done to reduce the problem; a drive through penalty at the time would have been a sufficient penalty for all concerned.

      Although I really feel sorry for RIC, and quite like him, I completely disagree with this.

      For one, they had warned RB, and told them what they had to do to correct it. RB chose to ignore it, thinking they knew better.

      For the other, a drive through is not sufficient for breaking the technical regs. If the car does not meet the regs, the only course of action is disqualification. They could well have black flagged him as soon as they knew RB weren’t complying with their instructions.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th March 2014, 12:44

        Yeah that’s just it…firstly, and I don’t know the answer to this, what performance benefit was DR enjoying? If it was big, then a drive-through penalty would have been meaningless. Drive through and go back out there with an illegal car and carry on like everything is fair and square? Secondly, this is obviously early days of a complex issue, and I can understand the stewards needing more time than they had within the race to figure this out. They obviously knew of the issue during the race, but perhaps not all of the details nor how to deal with it on the fly. They may have been waiting and expecting RBR to comply at some point during the race, and only knew for sure that RBR acted on their own once the race was over.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th March 2014, 13:04

          The performance benefit does not play a role for infringements of the TR though @robbie. Remember Perez losing his first points finish at his debut in Australia because of a manufacturing error made the rear wing illegal?
          There was not even a question about any advantage gained (there was non) but it was against the rules and resulted in automatic DSQ once the stewards found this during post race scrutineering.

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

            @bascb Fair point. I was assuming that running at higher than 100kg/hr was an advantage and therefore why it was an issue but I totally get you that illegal is illegal, performance gain or not. Usually illegal means advantage though, or at least potentially so, or why would they do it, which is why I thought something like a drive- through would barely deal with the issue, and would have been unfair to the other teams and drivers on the track as he still would have been out there running illegally after the drive-through.

          • Hemz Shaw (@hemzshaw) said on 17th March 2014, 17:46

            Exceeding 100KG/HR is definitely increasing the fuel flow into the engine @bascb and @robbie. More fuel pushed into the engine, more power produced.

            So if they breached that 100KG/Hour flow rate while other teams did not, then they are guilty of not following the rules that everyone else followed to the T.

            The main problem for RedBull in this race was they did not pay heed to the recommendation provided by officials. RedBull Technical Representative made it clear that he had received and acknowledged the email with the suggestion from officials to use the original sensor with a corrected fuel flow of 96KG/HR. RedBull did not think so, and they continued racing with their own sensor instead of using the FIA approved sensor.

            Now when all other cars were using FIA approved sensor and RedBull using a different one is not right. Even if it was erroneous, they were given adequate instructions to get around the problem which they did not consider and went ahead with their own solution – which tells me that Stewards deciding on this are right.

  2. John said on 17th March 2014, 0:14

    Surely you are given 100kg of fuel, yours to use or abuse, if you don’t make the end of the race, your issue…
    Pretty simple, cars are weighed teams need points what’s the issue

    • kpcart said on 17th March 2014, 14:42

      yeh, this fuel flow thing makes no sense…. 100kg per hour fuel flow limit — races are usually over 1.5 hours — 100kg fuel limit —- it means the teams have to use a fuel flow rate of about 66kg/h “average” just to finish a race… hard to see how redbull went over 100kg/h – wouldn’t they run out of fuel? and even if they did, what is to be achieved??? any advantage gained for a few seconds will be lost over the rest of the time period of the race. with this 100kg/h limit, why limit the teams to 100kg fuel? most fuel usuage is during acceleration, it just makes no sense…. are the fia expecting 20 to 30 litres of fuel left in each car at the end of ever race???

  3. Gerry said on 17th March 2014, 1:02

    Glad to see somebody mentioned that the great Ross Brawn had something to do with Mercedes performance and win!! Come back Ross we miss you!

    • kpcart said on 17th March 2014, 14:48

      since 2009, when ross brawn took over a great Honda engineered car.. each one of his cars went backwards as the year went on. this year, with brawn out of the picture, Mercedes are likely to succeed more then they could with brawn. toto wolf is the man… Brawn was overrated from achieving greatness in the richest team of early 90s, Ferrari – with unlimited testing. last year Wolf came into the team, and that is why Mercedes will now succeed, if brawn had stayed, they would be close to the front at the start again, and finish 4th by the year end.

  4. Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 17th March 2014, 2:14

    I really enjoyed the race and particularly the new(ish) faces doing well up the front.

    I have to say that I’m gutted that Danny has been (probably rightly) denied his podium. But the people who should get the biggest kick in the backside are the RBR management. Regarless of the technicalities and “he said, she said”, they were given a chance to alter the flow during the race by the FIA and that would probably have gotten them through without a DSQ. It was a massive gift/wakeup call from the FIA in my opinion. At worst they’d have had Danny in 3rd. But no, the great big brains at RBR went all or nothing. Here’s to you RBR – nuth’n!

  5. Sumedh said on 17th March 2014, 6:22

    If FIA were contacting Red Bull throughout the race and letting them know of the breach. Then why didn’t they just black-flag Ricciardo?

    I don’t care about whether FIA is right o Red Bull is right. My concern is changing results hours after the race is over.

    • The Bear! (@justgassing) said on 17th March 2014, 9:28

      Well said and my point exactly.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th March 2014, 12:55

        Maybe they thought black flagging DR would be harsh given that their preference for the race and for the fans would have been to see RBR comply, and therefore were giving them the chance to do so. Maybe they needed the race to run it’s course while giving RBR a chance, and it was once they no longer had the chance to comply because the race was over that the stewards had no choice…ie. RBR left them no choice after ignoring the warnings.

        And I’m not sure black flagging DR and therefore not making a decision hours later would have assuaged most fans. At least DR has the sentimental backing right now, and I’m sure that if they were black flagged during the race there would still be huge disappointment, an appeal, and the true results would still be pending perhaps for more than just hours.

  6. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 17th March 2014, 8:01

    There’s been lots of discussion here concerning the reasons for and arguments behind Ricciardo’s exclusion, some of it quite arcane and complex. Over the past couple of years, one of Bernie’s main and stated aims has been to keep the worldwide television audience figures high and to that end, F1 has tried to “improve the show”.
    But now, if F1 is trying to appeal to a wider and therefore less knowledgeable audience, how on earth can this wider audience be expected to understand the reasons for Ricciardo being disqualified?
    I think one of the reasons for football’s almost universal popularity is that it is relatively easy to understand – even the fabled offside rule – whereas F1 is not easy to understand at all. Yesterday it got even harder to fathom, with lots of us here – F1 fanatics after all – failing to grasp the new rules.
    I think F1 may be in the long process of shooting itself in the foot.

  7. Dr. Jekyll (@dr-jekyll) said on 17th March 2014, 9:42

    Not bad for a Half-Points race huh?

  8. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 17th March 2014, 9:47

    F1’s new era has indeed arrived, and it was one prominently heralded by the “young guns” of F1, who very much showed their quality. Magnussen’s pace throughout practice was frankly unimpressive, but the second it started to count, Kevin found the speed – which is not just an attribute of an excellent racing driver, but of a potential future champion. Although I have been utterly scathing of any that attempt to illustrate him as Hamilton reincarnated (based on Magnussen’s frankly mediocre junior category results compared with Hamilton’s utter domination), and was equally scathing when he was parachuted in to replace the perfectly decent Perez, I see now where the logic was, with it being frankly illogical to retain Perez based on a piece of paper presumably gleamed from the Young Driver Test that said Kevin was faster. That said, I still believe that McLaren should have filled Hamilton’s seat with the Hulk in the first place…

    But perhaps the most encouraging component of today’s, other than the lack of a potentially fatal continuance of Vettel domination, was the performances of all the young drivers. Sadly, last year we lost Webber from the grid and in the coming seasons we may loose Massa, Button and even Raikkonen, and yet the quality of the grid will remain with young guns like Magnussen, Bottas, Kvyat and, when he eventually finds himself in F1, Robin Frijns. Bring on the future champions…

    • Dr. Jekyll (@dr-jekyll) said on 17th March 2014, 11:48

      @william-brierty ,I agree, actually all rookies for this year impressed me… Bottas was flying and showed awesome grit, and didn’t lose his cool after the misstake. Magnussen, no words needed.
      Kvyat impressed me both on saturday and sunday, and I must say Ericsson handled it better than some would fear.
      Except for Rosberg dominating the race in a RedBull-way, I found it a much more down to earth racing Race, than I’d been expecting

      I will be sad to see Kimi and Button go, but at least the newcomers are exciting

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th March 2014, 13:05

        While I don’t really disagree with anything being said here, I’m certainly not convinced that ‘the second it started to count, Kevin found the speed…’ He may have, sure, but it might also have had to do with tires, or the realization by the team that fuel would not be an issue, or it might have had to do with energy harvesting etc etc. I just think we need more time to see how it all settles out, and I also like to think that all drivers at all times are trying to find the speed…it all counts at all times. KM finished way way back of NR, as they all did…so he needed to find the speed all along and it counted all along.

        • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 17th March 2014, 15:11

          @robbie – I’m talking about Magnussen’s practice pace relative to his race and qualifying pace. He was definitely tailing Button in terms of consistency during his race runs and by his own admission made mistakes on his qualifying simulations, so it was definitely impressive to see his form pick up so emphatically in the dying seconds of Q2, Q3 and then the race.

  9. Evans said on 17th March 2014, 10:11

    I don’t get why Red Bull should have turned it down. They made a car that can only perform at the stipulated levels and they were running to those stipulated levels. The FIA should not be changing what the stipulated level is at the grand prix.

  10. kpcart said on 17th March 2014, 14:30

    with this 100kg/h fuel flow limit,,,, does that mean most cars will finish with heaps of fuel still in the fuel tank? most races are over 1 hour 30 minutes – so with 10kg of fuel, most cars should have about 30kg of fuel left in the tank at the end of the race?? this is such a stupid rule, either limit the fuel flow or limit the amount of fuel for the whole race, what is the point of limiting both???

  11. dkpioe said on 17th March 2014, 16:01

    with this 100kg/h limit in fuel consumption, am a right that teams who only use 65kg of fuel for the whole race will have an advantage, if they stick within the consumption limit, they will still finish a 1 and a half hour race, and their car will be more light weight then a car starting with 100kg??

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