|The class of 2014|
Its stupid o’clock. 5am to be precise. I must be clinically insane. Even the 3 year is still asleep. I am also feeling the teensiest bit jaded but with all that dewy bright-eyed first race enthusiasm I have managed to haul myself out of bed in time for the start of the Australian Grand Prix. I might not achieve anything else today but I have managed to do this.
|6am on Sunday morning|
How fitting that the Sky team opened the show with a dignified and heartfelt mention of Michael Schumacher still fighting for his life 11 weeks after his horrific accident. In Melbourne, the teams have apparently decided not to discuss Schumacher's condition publicly out of respect for him and his family but many of the F1 teams have held tributes, including his former Mercedes and Ferrari teams. Mercedes has the #KeepFightingMichael banner on its cars, as does Ferrari with #ForzaMichael. It is all so desperately sad and I pray every day that he turns the corner and there will be some positive news.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the new F1 season starting with the events of the winter but now it is here I am glad. I think a lot of F1 fans need the excitement of a brand new chapter in F1 to focus on. One of my favourite Sky features from last season is the Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert ‘behind the scenes’ at different tracks. It shouldn’t work but it totally does as you can tell they get on brilliantly and perfectly complement each other. Today Damon and Johnny are catching up with Alan Jones and we discover there is a real-life ‘Alan Jones Boulevard’ in the Melbourne paddock. I love the choice of the word ‘boulevard’ as if Alan Jones was a highbrow Alain Prost kind of figure when he is possibly The Most Australian Person on the Planet. I loved his no nonsense assessment of Daniel Ricciardo “he’s got that lovely smile but grows horns at the right time”. Please let him be doing the after-race interviews.
|Alan Jones winning Williams' first world championship in 1980|
Suddenly its time for the very first #MartinsGridWalk of the season! I might have missed a bit of the build-up there due to extreme sleep deprivation and the arrival downstairs of the 3 year old. I’ve just noticed though lots of people on the grid are wearing little pink shirt badges in memory of Jenson Button’s father. How lovely.
|For old times|
There are NO cars at the front of the grid yet. But we have Sir Jackie Stewart who will never turn down an interview. JYS likes this new F1 and finds the new sound is more comfortable on his ears. Bless. And its our First Random Celebrity at a Race of the season – its Miss Dannii Minogue. Told you! Although she is a big Jenson fan (is she?), she is obviously supporting Daniel Ricciardo and says the pressure is on Lewis and would like some rain to spice things up. Does anyone else remember when she was engaged to Jacques Villeneuve? Blimey she dodged a bullet there.
Apparently Kevin Magnussen doesn’t want to talk on the grid this year. Hmmm methinks Ron Dennis might have had a word in the producer’s shell-like to ensure the full media spotlight isn’t thrust on his young driver. Talking of media spotlights, there is predictably a huge media scrum around Daniel Ricciardo while he tries to have some really important conversation with his engineers. He said the practice starts have been ok but everyone is a bit up and down with starts.
We get an ‘time filler’ close up of the hideously ugly Ferrari of Alonso then the two Toro Rosso’s that qualified so well. Apparently the last teenager before Kvyat to qualify in the top 10 was Sebastian Vettel. Well who knew? Though we probably could have guessed. After a chat with Eric Bouillier that I instantly forgot, Martin found the ever affable and loquacious Christian Horner. Apparently Seb has had some software issues but at the moment it is okay. Portent of Doom Alert.
|Remember Martin Whitmarsh? Nope, didn't think so|
Darth Vader aka Ron Dennis has been spotted but will he grant an audience?! Reluctantly yes. He thinks fuel consumption, tyre degradation and reliability will be an issue. So not much then. The biggest challenge will be juggling fuel consumption – if you drop off the pace too much to save on fuel then you start to lose temperature in the tyres. He thinks its going to be a good season but fans shouldn’t judge things on one race and said menacingly that qualifying was after all exciting. Ron, we wouldn’t dare argue. Loved Damon’s comments afterwards on Ron that “he was looking imperious and giving Brundle the full sneer!” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Not that he was shaking in his boots or anything but still it’s the most nervous I have ever seen Brundle.
Final word is with Nico Hulkenberg. He is pretty confident but mused how confident can you be in the first race of the season. Then Martin left him in peace to eat his banana.
Its time to get this F1 season underway. Five lights and (you couldn’t make it up) its an aborted start. You are freaking kidding me. There is another broken down Marussia, that of Jules Bianchi (to join the other broken down Marussia of Max Chilton on the formation lap). Still its not like they are on limited fuel or anything. Oh.
Well here we go again. And its Go! Go! Go! at the Australian Grand Prix. And Rosberg makes a stunning start from third to leapfrog Hamilton and Ricciardo to take the lead. Meanwhile Massa’s Williams has crashed out after Kobayashi in the Caterham basically slid in him. I seem to remember we have been here before with Kobayashi. Just gutted for Massa.
|First lap carnage thanks to Kobayashi|
And Kevin Magnussen (who I have discovered is the son of Jan Magnussen who I remember racing in F1 not that long ago – weeps at advancing age) just gobbles up Lewis Hamilton to move into 3rd place. And is that a Force India mixing it with the big boys? Of course its Hulkenberg who is now in 4th place.
Distressing news to report I know but Vettel appears to have a problem of sorts. Endless start replays show that he basically just went backwards. Curiouser and curiouser. Now Lewis has been ordered to retire to save the engine and then moments later is told to stay out. Its lap 2 and my brain is fried. Oh dear now Hamilton is coming in to retire. He is reporting no power and has a problem with the gearbox. What a crushing disappointment that will be.
No one else appears to have noticed that Kimi (who qualifed in 11th place) is now up in 6th place. How did that happen? And how much am I enjoying seeing the Williams easily overtaking cars (even before DRS is even enabled) and seeing the new kids on the block driving out there without fear and with total confidence. I think this season will mark a changing of the guard…
|Bottas driving for Williams|
And now the reigning world champion (it feels like since forever) Sebastian Vettel is out after some very narked exchanges with his mechanics snapping “that’s ridiculous” when told his KERS wasn’t working properly. Not that the Red Bull is actually looking all that shabby this season (funny that) but Vettel is a right stroppy teenager when he’s up against it.
And just as we’re following Bottas, he clatters into the wall and ends up with a puncture. It did look he was driving too hard if such a thing is possible in F1. Probably a good thing I’m not a race engineer as I’d be berating the driver as opposed to the correct approach of the Williams engineer calmly asking him to box as if it was a scheduled pitstop.
Bottas’ small wall altercation gives us our first appearance of the Safety Car for the season (so another tick on the F1 Bingo sheet). Cue a multiple round of pitstops. The main loser turns out to be Kimi who lost quite a lot of time while the team brought in Alonso first. Welcome to life as a number two, Kimi. I know what Ferrari say but I don’t believe them.
|They might have matching sunglasses but we all know who is no.1 and who is no.2|
And now, as if there wasn’t enough drama with false starts, pole-sitter and world champion retirements and safety cars, there is light rain is falling on parts of the track. Although the Weather Monitor of Hope says it should miss most of the track. Really? I have to say that sky looks very dark and sinister.
On lap 16 the race re-starts properly. Again. So lets have a quick round up of the top order on lap 20:
1. Nico Rosberg
By lap 32 (I may have nodded off) we have already had 15 retirements, the latest ones now being Ericsson and Maldonado. Meanwhile, Rosberg is beginning to open up an ominously massive gap at the front. Bottas has impressively fought his way through the field and is now gaining on Kimi in 8th. And for all their much heralded shiteness, the two Lotus cars are somehow running 13th and 14th. Button pits on lap 33 and its possible that could be his last pitstop. He is running very nicely indeed. Bizarrely a bit of the giant anteater nose on his car falls off when its jacked up in the pits but no one seems too fussed.
|Jenson Button in the new style McLaren (love the retro Mobil!)|
It does seem very congested down in the pitlane. The cars have barely enough room to squeeze in and out of their areas. The husband informs me knowledgeably this is because of the power-train. Who am I to argue? Bottas takes full advantage of Kimi’s lock up to move into 7th place. Kimi hasn’t been having the best of weekends has he? Alonso pits on lap 36 and nicely disposes of the Hulk who has the audacity to attempt a move past the Ferrari as it exits the pits.
But can I just mention along with the rest of the universe how stunningly well Kevin Magnussen is driving. Utterly flawless and totally composed in his first race in Formula 1. I think it might just have found its newest star.
Bloody hell its lap 45 already? This race has flown by. Just noticing that Ron Dennis who isn’t planning to attend any F1 races or play a hands on role is now in fact ON THE PIT WALL.
With now only 7 laps to go, its 1. Rosberg, 2. Ricciardo, 4. Magnussen, 4. Button, 5. Alonso, 6. Bottas. I would SO love to see Button on the podium although the three drivers ahead of him have driven so wonderfully as well. Not the most impressive of starts for Ferrari. There wll be cataclysmic ruptions at Di Montezemolo Towers.
|Ricciardo with rookie Kevin Magnussen in close pursuit|
Magnussen is now breathing down Ricciardo’s exhaust. I have just noticed that the McLaren cars are sponsored by ASOS.com – how brilliant and very un-Formula 1. The husband of course has no idea what ASOS is but says he keeps seeing emails from them <changes subject quickly>
I love the way that even though obviously Kevin is ridiculously fast his engineers keep reminding him what buttons to press. But still: amazing. And we are now in the closing stages of the race which to be honest (whisper it quietly) has been a little bit of a procession. And as the chequered flag falls the top 3 who have been in podium positions for nearly the whole race deservedly hang on to their prize. The local crowd go absolutely delirious to see their boy Ricciardo come home in 2nd place!
|Nico Rosberg wins the first race of the season|
Here are the results from the Australian Grand Prix 2014:
1. Rosberg – An imperious drive from start to finish.
2. Ricciardo – *
3. Magnussen – Absolutely sensational result on his Formula 1 debut.
4. Button – Slightly gutted he missed out on a podium but still a great drive from 11th on the grid.
5. Alonso – I think overall he will be disappointed but points are points and Vettel and Hamilton got none.
6. Bottas – Considering his early race incident, a great fightback!
7. Hulkenberg – You know what he is always there or thereabouts whatever car you put him in.
8. Vergne – A fine first outing of the season.
9. Kvyat – The International Man of Mystery who became the youngest points scorer in F1 (beating you know who’s record).
10. Perez – I almost forgot he was still in F1!
*Ooops. I feel like the Murray Walker kiss of death. After
a stewards inquiry that went on for several eternities, poor
Daniel Ricciardo got disqualified for exceeding the fuel
flow limit. Red Bull are now appealing the decision after branding
the FIA's fuel flow sensors as 'immature technology'. It has
emerged that Red Bull was warned about their fuel
flow levels during the race but chose to push on.
|Red Bull - in the dock again|
Right now the jury is out on whether we have a Brave New F1 World. After a lot of hysterical speculation that we would see engines conking out all over the place, we actually had a race that was dominated practically from start to finish by one driver. We still had Alonso being held up by Hulkenberg (à la 2013). It turns out that Red Bull isn’t as far off the pace as doomlord Christian Horner had us believe (although it remains to be seen how much advantage their illegal fuel flows gave them).
But we also witnessed two hugely impressive debuts by Magnussen and Kvyat. And you have to hand it to Ron Dennis. He’s only been back two minutes and already McLaren are leading the Constructors Championship.
And just think in two weeks’ time we will be doing all this again!