It was a case of just waiting to see how the new cars would fair in their first expedition into the unknown for the first formation lap ahead of 58 laps around the 3.3 mile Albert Park Circuit earlier on today.
Here was the beginning of a new era, with the hierarchy of what will emerge from the new future that Formula One has embraced not yet fully realized. Of course, it is early days, but the prophetic gremlins that emerged during testing once again hit the field and hit hard at different times during the race.
With just under ten laps completed, there were four cars out of the running, one an unwilling participant in the form of Felipe Massa, with Kobayashi seeming to quite clearly be out control. Just by reviewing the footage, it was becoming more evident that this brake-by-wire system is an unpolished jewel that is not yet fully worked out to become truly efficient at the moment.
The front tyres were bearing the brunt of the load that the Japanese driver had due to the technical problem, as any electrical system will revert to a back-up default that would enable the driver to slow the vehicle in some capacity. But the fact of the matter is that proper caution may have been exercised was of due diligence by all when it came to making it around the first corner.
Another talking point was the rate of attrition when it came to other technical problems including internal combustion engines, the two energy recovery units and oil pressure. By Lap 9 of the 2014 season, two World Champions were out of the equation, as well as some of the rest of the field suffering a situation like at Ferrari, where an electrical issue for both Alonso and Raikkonen were being managed to the best possible result for both drivers, which ended up being a points finish.
It seems as though those proverbial gremlins still need to be ironed out, don’t they? It was never going to be easy for any team to get their cars working fully but with the amount of mileage that Mercedes, McLaren and Williams had covered during pre-season testing, reliability was to be the key point that everyone was talking about.
Managing all the key aspects, which includes driver inputs when it comes to the power torque curve that caught a couple of guys napping, as well as fuel flow rates, is a skill that is not going to be one that cannot be taught simply overnight. This is because everyone is evolving when it comes to the understanding of the new technology and the limits that have been imposed under said regulations.
Red Bull were instantly under the microscope after the race, as Daniel and the team were called to the stewards for an infraction on Technical Regulation 5.1.4, which is not being taken lightly by any means by the FIA. The “sensor wasn’t working” excuse will not be wash as a potential excuse if there are too many breaches of said article.
Just to think that there will be another hash tag on Twitter very soon that will be added to the plethora of ones that relate to F1, now that Daniel has been excluded. Back up procedures are always meant to make sure that even if certain parts aren’t working, then settings do have to be adjusted accordingly. But he drove a great race on his own merit to warrant his place in Red Bull, even if there was something that was not of his doing.
Then there are the young guns that need a definitive mention on their debut outings in the sport. Firstly, a great job was done by Magnussen, who paid back in spades the faith that McLaren have had in him to secure his first podium in his F1 career, as well as being a part of history being made in two forms this weekend, being the first Danish F1 driver to hit the rostrum and spray the champagne. Talent is a big telling point, especially with this young lion, and with his aggressive approach and smooth style of driving, the 2013 World Series By Renault 3.5 champion was clearly putting some of his elders in their place.
The youngest driver on the grid, Russia’s Kvyat, beat the current record set by Vettel and scored two well-deserved points at the age of 19 years and 326 days. He has shown that even with having bypassed GP2, he showed his class as a fast and intelligent driver.
Picking up the GP3 title, as well as racing in the FIA F3 European Championship last year was no mean feat, and showed his talent in abundance. He was clinging to the back end of Kimi’s Ferrari for quite a few laps and showed a lot of maturity in how he went about the business end of the weekend. The young driver is one to clearly watch this year.
Sweden helped to bolster the Scandinavian ranks in the sport this year, as Marcus Ericsson finally made his long-awaited debut. Even though he was forced to retire due to a oil consumption issue, he had been running as high as eleventh, which could have seen his be the “knight in shining armour” to help Caterham get their first point after three years of hard work and dedication. That defining moment for the Leafield squad may be not that far away.
Rosberg was the man leading the way, but there has to be one driver that stood out more than most. Bottas was that driver that was really pushing hard within the limits of the car, apart from his altercation with the wall exiting Turn 10 in the early goings.
With there being more power than grip in this new age, the drivers could be clearly shown to be wrestling with the cars, and it clearly showed in how some drivers like Magnussen and Vergne ended up tail happy, as the throttle response with a turbocharged engine is not as linear in comparison with a normally-aspirated one.
The flying Finn showed how good the Williams-Mercedes package is, and it does look great in that Martini livery. It is his second season in the sport, so he has every right to be “mad” at what happened, but the skill to really control these beasts will come with time. There could have been a potential podium on the cards for the 2011 GP3 champion, who overtook the most cars during the race, as well as exuding that confidence in his driving inputs through the overtakes that he did.
And then we come to the man that was clearly ahead of the field, Nico Rosberg, who never looked back from Turn 1 after the lights went out. Yes, the German national anthem was playing for the tenth race in a row, but a winning streak has come to an end, like a lot of people had been hoping for. Mercedes do have the best package, but Hamilton’s troubles were not potentially envisaged, as anything could have happened to his teammate too.
Sebastian may have decided to stay behind and look at the data and the variable factors that make this new version of Formula One such a challenge, but this shows his character and focus as a champion in spades. There may have been a reaction that was expected form the crowd, but the fact is that Vettel and Red Bull will not take this lying down. There will be a fight back on the cards, which will be a case of not if, but when they will come back to the top. No one at Milton Keynes will rest until this transpires, but even then, they will push as per normal.
We now have that first opening chapter written and put into print. Forget about the fact that the noise is different, efficiency is now imprinted into its fabric, but there has been a shake up that was needed to give a new lease of life into the sport. Yes, it is becoming increasingly more strategic, but think about it, the sport has to show relevancy to the road cars of today.
The world is changing, and motorsport has to as well. The glory days are what have made the sport, but it is still early days to give a final judgement on what we see and hear now. Its here to stay and people will have no alternative but adapt to it over time…
Images courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images, Mercedes AMG Petronas and Williams Martini Racing.