Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Magnussen announces his arrival in style // But Rosberg leads F1 into brave new era

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Magnussen greeted in the pitlane
Credit: McLaren Mercedes

I think there’s one word that describes the latest generation of Formula One racing: different. There were bits that looked exciting and bits that certainly need tweaking. One thing that Formula One can certainly rely on is the talent of its latest drivers. And yet it was a man who, relatively speaking, is becoming an old boy in Formula One who was dominant come race day.

Only four drivers on the current F1 grid are more experienced than Nico Rosberg and the German used all of that experience to lead into the first corner after one of the most treacherous race starts in F1 history. From there, Rosberg controlled his race pace like Sebastian Vettel and secured the fourth race victory of his career. It appears that the Mercedes is as good as was speculated through pre-season testing, though it is just as vulnerable as everyone else to unreliability.

But there were others who stole the show.

Great Dane

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren Mercedes: Started 4th, Finished 2nd

It was bizarre how similar Kevin Magnussen’s first race was to Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren debut. Both came in as a relative unknown replacing experienced drivers. Both were expected to bring more speed than their predecessors, though there were risks due to their lack of experience. And then at the season opening Australian GP, both Magnussen and Hamilton qualified fourth and drove spectacularly to finish third (at least Magnussen did on the road before Ricciardo was disqualified for an illegal fuel flow rate).

Magnussen showed them all up in his first competitive experience in a Formula 1 car

The car may not be the title challenger it was in 2007 and Magnussen may have profited from the misfortune of others but that should not take anything at all away from the Dane’s great performance. Aside from a huge sideways moment going into turn one, Magnussen did not put a wheel wrong all weekend. While others were caught out in the wet and with a completely different braking system, Magnussen showed them all up in his first competitive experience in a Formula 1 car.

Magnussen showed exactly why McLaren ousted Pérez to get the Dane into F1 for 2014. Though teammate Jenson Button had a problematic Saturday, he would still have had a job on his hands to beat Magnussen on his debut. The question is, can Magnussen continue this form and rival Lewis Hamilton’s stellar rookie season with McLaren?

Bottas proves his worth

Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing: Started 15th, Finished 5th

Valtteri Bottas was the star of the show in Australia and had he not swiped his Williams against the wall early in the race, he would have been by far the driver of the day. But the Finn wasted a great opportunity to secure a first ever podium with a relatively simple error, even with the amount of torque that the new cars produce.

Bottas seemed the angriest of anyone after the race despite the fact that he doubled the team’s points haul for the whole of last season. And that’s not to mention the 20 cars that he overtook throughout the race. He made two absolutely stunning moves early in the Grand Prix, around the outside of Jean-Éric Vergne into turn 3 and then down the inside of compatriot Kimi Räikkönen at the same corner. On both occasions, Bottas was given a car-width and took advantage of the opportunities.

Bottas makes good on the Williams promise
Credit: Steven Tee/Williams F1

No one was more aggressive throughout the Australian Grand Prix than Valtteri Bottas as he fought through the field not once but twice. We saw glimpses of Bottas’ true speed last year but with this year’s Williams it looks like the Flying Finn will have an opportunity to show just how good he really is. And after such a storming drive, you have to wonder what might have been had Felipe Massa not been clattered into by Kamui Kobayashi at the first corner.

Smiley Dan left fuming

Daniel Ricciardo, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 2nd, Disqualified

Daniel Ricciardo may have had the smile wiped off his face by the FIA late on Sunday evening but that really should not take away from Ricciardo’s first drive for the senior Red Bull team. His performance came after a tumultuous off-season where he hadn’t completed half a race distance in one go throughout testing. Add to that the pressure that comes as part of the job when graduating from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. And on top of all that, Ricciardo had all the activities and stress of a home grand prix.

And what did he do? He qualified an improbable second, splitting the dominant Mercedes, while his four time world champion teammate floundered in thirteenth, knocked out in Q2 for the first time since 2012. Vettel may have had software issues all weekend but it does appear that Ricciardo seems more comfortable in this season’s Red Bull right now.

It was a true shame that Ricciardo worked so hard to secure his first ever podium, showing true pace, great race management and coped well under pressure from Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, only to have it taken away for a technical infringement. I would argue that the worst thing to happen now is for Red Bull’s appeal to succeed. Strange though it may sound, it would look terrible if the FIA goes back on their original decision, ruining a great sporting moment for Australia. Imagine if the same situation had happened to Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone. It is a complete PR nightmare for the sport, angering one of the biggest markets for the sport, certainly outside of Europe.

It is a complete PR nightmare for the sport, angering one of the biggest markets for the sport, certainly outside of Europe.

At least Ricciardo did get the opportunity to experience the podium in front of his home fans, even if he doesn’t get the points to show for it.

There’s a day in every F1 fan’s life when they realise that they aren’t going to be an F1 driver. That day has come for me, as Daniil Kvyat (who is 192 days younger than me) scored a maiden point at the ripe old age of 19 years and 324 days. It appears that F1’s future is in great hands with the likes of Kvyat, Magnussen and Bottas ready to fight for future world titles.

As far as the regulations go, I think that the race went as smoothly as it could have been. The new cars will become simpler and more reliable. My only worry is the relative gaps between the performances of each chassis. But as usual, I am sure that it will all close up soon enough.