Turbocharged 1.6-l V6 powerplants are new to this year’s cars, marking the return of the turbo to F1 for the first time in 26 years. Electrical and heat power recovery are also at work in the new car designs’ drivetrains, as the 2014 Formula 1 season kicks off in Melbourne, Australia.
Mercedes lived up to preseason testing expectations, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg qualifying first and third. Australian Daniel Ricciardo joined Hamilton on the front row in his Red Bull debut and home race. Teammate and 4-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel failed to make Q3 and put his car on the grid at P12.
Rookies lined up fourth and eighth; Kevin Magnussen giving McLaren P4, a higher starting point than any it reached last year, and teen Russian Daniil Kvyat placing his (Toro Rosso) eighth. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) completed row three.
The first start was aborted, with Jules Bianchi’s Marussia stalling on grid and forcing a second formation lap. Teammate Max Chilton had problems even reaching the initial grid. Ricciardo reported that his car seemed to be bogging down at start.
Rosberg jumped to first place at the start, leading Ricciardo and Hamilton, with Magnussen pushing Hamilton to P4 by the end of Lap 1. Vettel slipped to P15, dodging midfield mayhem and complaining about lacking power. Hamilton’s car also was clearly missing something and retired during Lap 4.
The Mercedes’ retirement moved Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) into fourth. Vettel retired one lap later. Rosberg extended his lead to 5.8 sec by Lap 10. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) lost his right rear tire after hitting the wall while chasing Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) for fifth, bringing out the safety car.
A number of pit stops occurred under the caution, including all the leaders. Magnussen began to close on Ricciardo once action returned to green. Buy Lap 43 he had cut this gap from 7 to 1.2 sec. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) stopped on track during Lap 45 with Jenson Button (McLaren) up to P4.
Rosberg took the win, the fourth of his career, by 24.5 sec, with Ricciardo finishing second (the first Aussie on the Aussie podium), Magnussen third (the first Dane on an F1 podium), Button fourth and Fernando Alonso, fifth. Magnussen’s podium was the first by a rookie in his debut drive since Hamilton in 2007. Kyvat finished P10, making him the youngest driver to score points in F1 history.
Ricciardo’s finish was vacated after race stewards decided his car had used too high a fuel-flow rate during the contest. Red Bull was appealing the decision.
"It was a day of light and shadow for us,” said Toto Wolff, Mercedes team executive director. “Nico did a perfect job this afternoon: a great start and a really controlled drive all the way to the final lap. He delivered the car's performance how he needed to, when he needed to, and took a very composed and deserved victory. On the other side, we were disappointed to lose Lewis so early after a misfiring cylinder forced him to retire. He had done everything right this weekend until that point and it was a situation beyond his control. We know that reliability will be crucial to this long season and we will be working hard to improve the situation for the race in Malaysia. Finally, this victory has a very special meaning for us, too. I would like to dedicate it to Michael [Schumacher], who has been in all our thoughts this weekend. He will keep fighting, as only he knows how, and we are sending all our strength to him today."
Other post-race quotes can be found at Formula 1.com.
Driver standings (Top 10)
Nico Rosberg (Germany), Mercedes – 25
Kevin Magnussen (Denmark), McLaren-Mercedes – 18
Jenson Button (Great Britain), McLaren-Mercedes – 15
Fernando Alonso (Spain), Ferrari – 12
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Williams-Mercedes – 10
Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), Force India-Mercedes – 8
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland), Ferrari – 6
Jean-Eric Vergne (France), STR-Renault – 4
Daniil Kvyat (Russia), STR-Renault – 2
Sergio Perez (Mexico), Force India-Mercedes – 1
Team standings (teams earning points)
McLaren-Mercedes (Magnussen, Button) – 33
Mercedes (Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton) – 25
Ferrari (Alonso, Raikkonen) – 18
Williams-Mercedes (Bottas, Felipe Massa) – 10
Force India-Mercedes (Hulkenberg, Perez) – 9
STR-Renault (Vergne, Kvyat) – 6
Next event: Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix, Kuala Lumpur – Mar. 28-30