Niko Rosberg leads the field at the Australian Grand Prix. Photo Courtesy of Mercedes AMG Pertronas press Release http://www.mercedesamgf1.com/en/news/2014/nico-rosberg-wins-australian-gp/

Reflection on the Formula One opener

Melbourne’s Albert Park has long held some of the most interesting races in of the Formula One season as the teams either rejoice in their off season research, or frantically thrash to overcome their design flaws. Given all the changes in F-1 this year –moving to V6 turbos, lower noses, less fuel capacity and greater DRS and KERS capacity – The Australian Grand Prix looked set to be a carry-on comedy of a race, but it wasn’t.

Yes, two of Formula One’s most dominate names fell out early when Sebastien Vettel and Lewis Hamilton fell out with technical issues. Yes, they had to abort the start and three cars started from the pits. Yes, Kamui Kobayashi took out Felipe Massa on the first lap. Still, it wasn’t the demolition derby that many feared.

It’s still Formula One

As much as I am not happy with triple points in the series finale, much of Formula One’s allure remains. It’s the only major series in the world that doesn’t run a spec car. Each team’s machine looks significantly different, I’ll get into that later, there are three engine manufactures, with a fourth coming next year, and some teams can make dramatic improvements over the off season while others fall behind. The technical core of F-1 is still there, as is their aversion to safety cars. Within the last ten laps Romain Grosjean came to a rest well away from the racing line. In NASCAR that would have been a caution, in F-1 they race on. I appreciate that purity and dedication to not altering race results through throwing “timely” cautions.

Bottas is as good as I thought he was.

I’ve been following Valtteri Bottas’ career for six or seven years now. The young Fin built the sort of resume that screams Formula One, working up the ladder series never finishing fifth in the points. He won the GP3 championship in 2011 and after a year as William’s test driver he looked ready to step into Formula One, but William’s car was just horrible. With a new car, new sponsor and a new teammate in Massa, Bottas looks to be the driver I always thought he was. He stormed through the field twice, recovered from hitting the wall and finished fifth.

Magnussen lives up to the hype

Kevin Magnussen turned in the best maiden performance by a rookie since Lewis Hamilton. A second generation driver McLaren kicked Sergio Perez, and his substancial sponsorship package, to the curb in favor Magnussen. Having only one a Formula Renault 3.5 championship to his credit Magnussen didn’t look obvious choice, but in the late stages of race he drove away from his more experienced teammate Jenson Button and challenged Daniel Ricciardo for second, for a podium in his debut race.

 I’m gutted for Ricciardo

I didn’t see Ricciardo as the obvious choice to follow Mark Webber, but he turned in an excellent race, a race that was eventually disqualified. In the BBC reported a post-race technical inspection an issue was discovered with a fuel-flow meter, and so his race was struck in its entirety. The meters are provided by the FIA and Red Bull plans on appealing, but talk about getting the wind ripped from your sails. It was the first time an Australian had ever finished on the podium in their home race.

The cars are ugly

If you thought the stepped-nose cars were ugly the current crop of Formula One cars takes unappealing to a whole new level. Regulations stated the noses had to be lowered to avoid ramping, the result are front ends that look a little like snowplows. The cars tend to fall into three categories: Mercedes and Ferrari have gone with an anteater style nose, Lotus has designed a twin-tusk nose, while the most plentiful way of dealing with drop-snout regulations was what could described as a “Bedroom toy,” that most designers have decided to go with. Yeah, they’re that bad. Painting the nose extensions black doesn’t really remove the comic value.

Tags: Australian Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo Kevin Magnussen Valtteri Bottas

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