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Rosberg wins season opener in Melbourne

NEWS STORY
16/03/2014

While it was always on the cards that a Mercedes would be starting today's race from pole position, who honestly would have predicted - based on pre-season evidence - that a Red Bull would also be starting from the front row, and 'new boy' Daniel Ricciardo to boot?

It was a superb performance from the youngster - one of several yesterday - but it remains to be seen how his car will stand up over a full race distance, something it hasn't done up until now.

The Brackley team clearly has the edge, while Mercedes engines power six of the ten cars at the front of the grid - even with Bottas' grid penalty.

While Renault appears to have taken a step forward, certainly as far as Red Bull is concerned, there remain issues, as Grosjean and Maldonado will readily tell you.

Therefore expect Mercedes teams to do well today, even if some will find the going a little tougher once the Renault teams - and Ferrari - get their acts together later in the year.

If nothing else, the disappointing new sound of F1 allows us to hear things we'd previously missed, little things like tyres squealing and the roar of the crowd.

Yesterday's crowd reaction had all the makings of pantomime, especially the roar of delight when Vettel failed to improve and thereby missed the cut at the end of Q2. There was another roar when Ricciardo appeared to take pole, but this soon turned to a collective groan when Hamilton banged in his 44.231. The sound of the crowd really humanises the sport, giving it some of the atmosphere of a football match. What's next, chants?

Ahead of today's race, it is surprising - or maybe not - the amount of negative coverage Hamilton is getting in the British press. Already under close scrutiny for his on/off relationship with his pop star girlfriend, the Mercedes driver is under added pressure as journos who should know better question whether his friendship with teammate Nico Rosberg would survive a strong, competitive season.

More worrying however, is the way comments made by him regarding Michael Schumacher appear to have been taken out of context and then magnified. We know from experience that the youngster wears his heart on his sleeve, he needs the British media on his side not working against him.

Someone who really doesn't give a toss what anyone thinks is The Iceman, however, are we alone in thinking that Raikkonen doesn't look comfortable at present. His radio comments were particularly tetchy yesterday, not to mention his reaction on returning to the pits after crashing out in Q2. Not a wise move if he is to take on and beat old 'Poker Face' Alonso.

Other than Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen Daniil Kvyat, Jean-Eric Vergne and Nico Hulkenberg deserve credit for their performances, particularly the Russian who seemed out of his depth on Friday. Kudos to the Caterham duo also.

With an eye on the fact that the next two races are back-to-back, albeit a fortnight away, nobody will want to take any unnecessary risks today, indeed, some teams (Lotus) look likely to use the race as a glorified test session.

We do not believe for a moment that the poor form and reliability some teams showed in testing has been miraculously resolved, therefore we are expecting lots of retirements. Indeed, with Button, Raikkonen and Vettel starting from the middle of the pack we can expect fireworks from the very start.

Though we (naively) still see F1 as a sport as opposed to entertainment, it must put on a show this weekend, and the performance of the rookies, not to mention the likes of Ricciardo, can make all the difference.

Then again there the new rules, and at Pitpass we still believe that not only are they too far ranging and, for many casual fans, too complicated, but that certain safety issues have not been thought out.

With an eye on fuel conservation some - another knife through the heart of those who want flat-out racing - drivers are having to be far more conservative on their approach. Indeed, some will be attempting to save fuel from the very start. We have already seen a number of occasions where drivers appear to be 'racing' at entirely different speeds on the same piece of tarmac - this is very worrying. Then again, so is the whole issue of the batteries being stored beneath fuel tanks.

We don't want to sensationalise like some media outlets, but we have to admit we are concerned. When the likes of Fernando Alonso, arguably the best driver out there, complains that he has too much to do and isn't able to focus one hundred percent, somewhere alarm bells should be ringing.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Podge, 17/03/2014 12:37

"Cars are ugly, the sound is awful, and the racing is as dire as ever. "Pinnacle"."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by vins0n, 17/03/2014 1:24

"The new sound of F1 "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz""

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by JackTheCat, 16/03/2014 10:08

"The best sounding engine by a mile is the Mercedes, sadly it's the one in the safety car!!!! Terrible move for the sport and a pretty average race to boot . Thumbs down from me!"

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4. Posted by Carugatese, 16/03/2014 8:57

"Thanks to SC, fuel has not been an issue. Rosberg in cruise control, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Bottas (mistake excluded) impressive, Alonso standing by, Raikkonen ill at ease. Dull race, promising podium."

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