Sunday, 16 March 2014
After the start, which saw Sebastian Vettel tumbling down the order, the first couple of engines gave up the ghost. Those engines happened to belong to the reigning world champion, Vettel, and the bookies favourite for the title challenge, Lewis Hamilton. Vettel was having a torrid time anyway, receiving a dose of what his team mate last year had grown so accustomed to, crawling away from his grid box, like an old gramophone being wound up. Predictably, Seb was reported as being ever so professionally frustrated, as he berated the team down the (now crystal clear, in the relative silence) team radio. Hamilton was similarly frustrated, but both drivers graciously glossed over the fact that their team mates were doing very well and running comfortably in first and second. Whilst it was great being able to hear the team radios better with the quieter engines, I couldn't help thinking an opportunity was missed, when Alonso's race engineer didn't ask him "can you hear the drums now, Fernando?"
It's difficult to pick out any but McLaren as stand out teams with pace. They will be breathing a huge sigh of relief, since this time last year they were just embarking on one of their most unsuccessful seasons of all time. By the chequered flag McLaren were the only team who looked unwaveringly good. Other teams that faired well were Force India, a team championed by myself in previous blog posts. They were constantly featured during the Grand Prix and regularly overtaking or gaining on somebody rapidly. Williams also looked good and Bottas is my 'driver of the race', despite the over eagerness, that lead to him clipping a wall and damaging his right rear tyre. He would almost certainly have been guaranteed a podium finish if it hadn't been for that incident.
Everybody seemed genuinely elated to be on the podium, which is a refreshing sight. It makes a change from seeing a dejected Alonso on the third step or a fuming Webber climbing on to the second step after passing the victory to an undeserving Vettel. Australian fans were treated to finally seeing a fellow countryman on the podium. A quote from the past floated back in to my mind, as I watched Daniel Ricciardo holding up his second place trophy; "Not bad for a Number Two driver!" I half expected to glimpse, during Ricciardo's second pit stop, the eyes of Sebastian Vettel through the visor of the crew member at his right rear, a Dick Dastardly smirk playing across his lips as he pushed a drawing pin in to the tyre.
With the first Grand Prix of 2014 over, I would conclude that 1) I hate the new engine sounds, 2) the engine failures are frustrating, because it was something that had been almost completely eradicated from the sport, and 3) the nose cones look utterly ridiculous. The racing last season was exciting and Formula One didn't need to pander to the Environmentalists with troublesome hybrid engines. In my humble opinion, the FIA should have stuck to the mantra "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
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